Studies have shown that AFS exchange programs can have a deep and far-reaching impact on the lives of participants. AFS has helped more than 400,000 students and young adults embark on journeys of personal growth through intercultural learning experiences. Participants develop new skills and gain a broader perspective on the world while building meaningful and lasting connections with the people they meet along the way.
AFS Participants benefit from becoming a part of the global AFS community—a network of people who share their passion for exploring foreign cultures and connecting with people of diverse backgrounds.
During the experience abroad, participants often build close attachments with their host families through daily interaction in the household. Participants also form deep and meaningful connections with other AFS Participants, who they meet at orientation sessions and activities organized by AFS in the host country. Not surprisingly, students who have taken part in exchange programs are shown to have less anxiety interacting with people from different cultures later in life.
Through immersion in a foreign culture, AFS Participants expand their perspectives and learn more about themselves in the process. Exchange programs build maturity as participants become more self-reliant and confident in their own abilities. By experiencing another culture as an outsider, they gain a deeper understanding of the world and take steps towards becoming responsible global citizens. Participants also develop useful skills for the future, such as fluency in another language, which can provide a competitive advantage when applying for college or in the workforce.
AFS Participants benefit from the experience for the rest of their lives. When people who took part in an AFS exchange program were compared to their peers, they showed higher levels of intercultural sensitivity, even 25 years after their time abroad. They felt more comfortable around people from foreign cultures and were more likely to live in diverse neighborhoods. This attitude is passed down from parent to child. AFS Returnees realize the value of exposure to new cultures and actively encourage their children to take part in exchange programs.
Besides the direct benefits for participants, exchange programs have a positive and lasting impact on the larger community. AFS Participants enrich the educational experience of fellow students, both in the host country and in their own schools. The school-based exchange programs offered by AFS give students and teachers the chance to interact with someone from another culture. In the same manner, participants are able to contribute to their schools' curricula upon their return, sharing what they have learned with their peers.
Read more about how AFS exchange programs impact career choices, personal growth, intercultural sensitivity and language learning in AFS & Intercultural Learning.