As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, we are challenged more than ever before to expand our knowledge and attitudes in order to successfully participate in the emerging global community.
AFS is an educational organization dedicated to providing enriched learning experiences that promote intercultural awareness, tolerance and communication. By providing immersive learning experiences in new environments combined with regular reflection and coaching opportunities, AFS helps participants build solid foundations for the future—whether in their academic careers, entry into the workforce or simply as responsible and tolerant members of the larger community.
The programs offered by AFS are focused on increasing intercultural competence: the ability to engage effectively and appropriately within different cultural settings, whether encountered locally or in an international setting. Using experiential and structured learning methods, both participants and host families have the chance to broaden their perspectives and learn from each other, developing their communication skills in the process. The result effect is solid preparation to live, work and lead in a diverse global society.
By helping individuals develop more effective communication skills and improve their understanding of the unfamiliar, AFS gives its participants, host families and connected audiences better insights into the perspectives of people from other cultures. The resulting empathy prepares participants to better cope with ambiguity and difference in future situations.
Research has shown that AFS alumni have more diversity in their professional and social networks. They are also significantly more likely than their peers to have careers that involve working extensively with other cultures, and almost 50% more likely to live and work abroad for an extended period. Additionally, they often study abroad again at the university level.
The ability to speak and use a foreign language provides countless advantages in the workforce as well as in everyday life. The type of immersive experience provided by AFS exchange programs is one of the most effective ways to learn another language. Over 70% of AFS Participants achieved fluency in another language after the completion of a year studying abroad and AFS alumni are likely to have fluency in more foreign languages than their peers.
People who take part in AFS exchange programs show increased intercultural development and more global awareness. This is assessed using the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), a scale that identifies varying worldviews through which people perceive cultural difference. AFS Participants had significant improvement in their developmental score, as a group moving nearly 2 points on the scale away from ethnocentric tendencies towards an ethnorelative outlook that evaluates new people based on their values and perspectives.
AFS Participants experience dramatically lowered feelings of anxiety in new environments as a result of their time abroad. Not only do they feel more comfortable around people from other cultures, they are much less likely to view the world in terms of "them" and "us." In fact, a 2008 study on the long term impact of AFS exchange experiences (25 years post-exchange) showed that 39% of alumni felt it would be very desirable to live in a diverse neighborhood, as compared to only 28% of their peers.