Register Now for The Necessity of Global Competence in the 21st Century Conference

Join us for the second Asia Pacific international forum Intercultural and Global Citizenship Education – The Necessity of Global Competence in the 21st Century, 16-18 March 2016 in Perth, Australia. The forum is organized by AFS Intercultural Programs, SIETAR Australasia, and Asia Society, supported by the University of Western Australia and the Perth Convention Bureau, and it will gather practitioners and international thought leaders for an in-depth, Asia Pacific focused and globally relevant exploration of the importance of intercultural learning and Global Citizenship Education.

This conference builds on a series of events tackling the topic of global citizenship around the world. The series started in 2014 with the AFS Centennial Global Education Symposium, and continued with the first AFS-AAI-SIETAR Intercultural Conference in Indonesia and the Regional Education Forum in Costa Rica in 2015.

Register for the forum here.

The Necessity of Global Competence in the 21st Century is an opportunity to learn how intercultural competence and global citizenship equip individuals and the society to meet the needs of education, business and communities in the 21st century. It is important to consider how this can help us in understanding and addressing the big issues that threaten civil society and community cohesion in many parts of the globe. The participants of the forum will be looking at the big picture, exchanging ideas and learning about the practicalities related to business and education.

The forum has six key thematic areas:

  • Defining Global Citizenship Education and why it is urgently needed
  • Addressing intercultural issues for indigenous communities
  • Improving the profile of intercultural learning and global competence in modern educational practice
  • Understanding and measuring effects of educational mobility
  • Exploring the diverse, innovative pedagogies and assessment approaches to Global Citizenship Education
  • Recommended Global Citizenship Education goals and strategies to achieve them.

Keynote speakers at the Forum include two members of the AFS Educational Advisory Council, Dr. Milton Bennett, director of the Intercultural Development Research Institute (IDRI), and Dr. Nagesh Rao, president and director of the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA), as well as Robert Randall CEO of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

The forum aims to strengthen the collaboration among diverse communities of practice interested in intercultural learning, Global Citizenship Education and global competence in the Asia Pacific Region and beyond. It is a perfect opportunity to advocate for Global Citizenship Education to policy makers and the corporate sector, as well as to form alliances with other educators and academics.

New Issue of Connect: Putting Social Impact into Action

We are proud to present the latest issue of Connect: Intercultural Insights for Global Citizens, the digital publication of AFS Intercultural Programs which focuses on intercultural and global citizenship education, voluntarism and social impact within the AFS global network and beyond. This issue of the Connect looks into how social impact is made and put into action in a meaningful way.

Click here to read the new Connect!

In this issue, we do some reflection of our own on opportunities and demand for each of us to make our impact on our community, and for AFS to continue — in new and more ways — to put our mission of peace and justice into action.

We take the chance to look back through some of the most prized 2015 AFS initiatives that showcase what our organizations around the world are doing to positively impact their local community. We call this initiative Intercultural Learning in Our Own Backyard, and are proud to present the four winning projects — and how they were relevant, sustainable, innovative and impactful for their communities. Also, this issue features two awards presented to the projects of deserving AFS volunteers — for social impact and organizational innovation. Find out all about the AFS #ChangeMakers Awards here.

We are also not shying away from difficult questions and finding the right tools to ask them. We asked ourselves and now we ask you: Are you prejudiced? Before you answer, read this article and take a short test to challenge your perceptions. We bring you the mechanics and science behind how prejudice is dispelled and would like to hear your reactions to your results.

Next, the newly announced UN Global Goals inspired us to sit down with two renowned figures in their respective fields: Sibyl Anwander discusses sustainability and J. Brian Atwood talks about international development. Both are also members of the International Board of Trustees of AFS Intercultural Programs. They tell us all about the recent changes in their fields and what we can expect looking ahead. Global citizens will find some encouraging but demanding messages in the words of our interviewees: true social impact requires that we collaborate and spread the spirit of appreciation for the diversity of cultures. Read more here and share with us these message mean for for as a global citizen?

There is no shortage of AFS projects and programs designed to help make positive changes: “Together” is the key word we found for the AFS intra-African exchange program Sawa Sawa. Find out how changemaking and entrepreneurship are shaped by and shaping volunteer communities in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa and what’s ahead this year.

Cooperation between schools, educators and AFS to advance global citizenship education is growing to a new level: Learn about our new Educator & School Relations Project designed to strengthen these ties, as well as our active participation in educational conferences around the world.

Last but not least, for a volunteer-driven educational organization like AFS, it is very important to see positive change and impact happen among our volunteers of all agesAFS Volunteer Voices is a new platform for sharing and taking action on pressing issues important to our volunteers, especially but not only the younger generation of AFSers. This is where you can find out how AFSers in Turkey are travelling to the most remote and underprivileged parts of the country to make a positive impact on the local community, as well as many other education initiatives.

As you uphold your commitment to bring about positive change around you, don’t forget to let us and other AFSers know. Tweet us @AFS or comment on Facebook to share what your social impact project for this year is. Are you more of a visual person? Tag your social impact photos with #AFSeffect to make sure the whole community sees them on Instagram.

Young People Crucial for Achieving Global Goals

What role do the young people play in achieving the Global Goals set for the world to work to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030? At a recently held UN ECOSOC Youth Forum some of the key figures claimed that youth is central in creating a better future for all. Read more in this that post comes to us from Ana Carolina Cassiano, a Fellow for the Intercultural Link Learning Program at AFS International. She started her journey with AFS two years ago as a staff member of AFS Brazil after finishing her BA in Social Sciences and participating in a young professionals exchange program in Norway.

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Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2016 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum focused on the role of young people in implementing, communicating and realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets of the Agenda.

The event took place on 1-2 February at the UN Headquarters in New York, gathering young leaders and senior Member States representatives in plenary sessions and interactive thematic discussions.  AFS was represented at the first day of the event as I attended the plenary sessions and the breakout session on Education.

The overall discussions highlighted that youth-related issues are crosscutting and present through several parts of the Agenda. But engaging youth in the implementation of the Agenda goes beyond that, it puts young people at the forefront of change and development. Youth is no longer seen only as “the future” or supporters to sustainable development, youth is the present and actively engaged in shaping the discussions.

In the Education session, UNESCO New York Office Director Ms. Marie Paule Roudil called attention to SDG 4:

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

She emphasized that education is a common effort and that goes beyond formal education spaces. In this scenario, one of the main roles for young people is the innovative use of social media and new technologies to promote mobile education and awareness regarding the SDGs.

At this same session, Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee (Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN) called special attention to target target of Goal 4:

4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Mr. Choong-hee noted that a fundamental action to achieve not only the targets related to this goal, but for all SDGs is to promote Global Citizenship Education: “through GCE we develop a sense of belonging to a global community, mutual respect, solidarity, tolerance and understanding. (…) This allows us to foster our relationship with others and with the planet”. Mr. Choong-hee also called attention to the importance of intercultural exchanges as part of non-formal education initiatives to promote GCE.

Being an organization committed to prepare and empower our exchange participants and volunteers to become global citizens and change-makers in their communities and around the world, this is a topic aligned with AFS’ values and mission. But beyond that, it is also our role to continuously support youth in taking action to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Members of the AFS global community already engage in sustainable development initiatives in multiple ways: from innovative local projects to international events (such as the 2014 100 Years Young! AFS Youth Workshop & Symposium and the 2015 AFS Young Volunteers Forum). Currently, a group of AFSers is working on “The AFS Green Paper: Empowering young people for a bigger, better, strong AFS”. Promoting change and multiplying the effect of our “learning to live together” philosophy is part of who we are and what we do.

Three Cultural Diversity Activities to Share in the Classroom

This blog post was contributed by our Education and School Responsible and staff member of AFS Argentina & Uruguay, Maria Ines Quiroga. After finishing her degree in English Language and Culture Teaching, Maria Ines moved to the USA to study her Masters in Intercultural Communication at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She concentrated her studies in the development of intercultural competence in the language classroom and intercultural training. Once back in Argentina, she started collaborating with AFS Argentina & Uruguay, first through SIETAR Argentina, and then as the assigned staff member working jointly with the volunteer task force to design and implement an innovative strategy that would help AFS promote intercultural learning in the local educational systems.

12 October is a holiday that has been celebrated in some countries in Europe and most of the countries in the American continent since the late 18th and early 19th century to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ arrival in Central America, which happened on 12 October 1492.

When the holiday started to be commemorated, it was mostly referred to as the ‘discovery of America’ and the ‘Day of the Race’. Given the political, economic and cultural impact the arrival of the Europeans had in the American continent, the recognition to the celebration brought about some controversies to it and started to be reconsidered in the past few years in other ways. For example, nowadays, it is being referred to as ‘Day of Hispanicity – Día de la hispanidad’ in Spain, ‘Christopher Colombus National Fest’ in Italy, ‘Colombus Day’ in the USA, and ‘Day of the Americas’ in Uruguay & Belize. Following this lead, in Argentina, this day was declared ‘Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity’ in 2010.

AFS Argentina & Uruguay has taken advantage of this important but sometimes controversially regarded date by offering intercultural workshops to explore the meaning of cultural identity and respect of cultural diversity, commemorating ‘Diversity Week’ or ‘Diversity Month’. These workshops are prepared by AFS staff, trainers and local volunteers.

All of these initiatives have a positive impact in the communities where they are held and most schools ask the volunteers to repeat the workshops year after year. Over 400 students and young people were touched by these exciting workshops organized this year. These are some of the most highlighted and original ones which explore the concepts of culture, diversity, inclusion, and stereotypes in practical and engaging ways. You can use them as examples and ideas for creating your own activities and conversations relevant for your local community:

  • Cultural Diversity Workshop‘ consists of a series of activities in which AFS participants and their new classmates reflect upon diversity and inclusion. The objective is not only to promote AFS, but also point out its commitment to fostering the acceptance of diversity as a value.
  • The ‘Intercultural Dice’ studies diversity through an experiential game where students experience the ‘feeling’ and the consequences of ‘being different’ and helps them reflect upon how to show respect to their classmates with concrete actions. The students end up drawing or writing their conclusions on the ‘intercultural dice’ which will stay with them in order to be played whenever necessary in the classroom.
  • Playing in the Kindergarten’ aims at showing the children that there are different realities and different cultures and, in so doing, celebrate the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity. The workshop consists of having the AFS exchange students share games of their childhood with the children in their own language at first, and then in Spanish for the children to understand.

Finally, it is important to encourage intercultural education in our schools and national holidays, despite how debatable they could be, as this can always be used as an interesting door to explore and raise awareness about national & global identity.

Does your country have a national holiday to commemorate ‘Respect for Cultural Diversity’ or something similar? What types of activities are being held to celebrate it? What types of workshops could you offer to raise awareness on cultural identity? 

Daring to Create Change at the International Youth Forum “From Trenches to Bridges”

Organized by l’Agence d’Attractivité de l’Alsace, AFS France, AFS Germany and AFS Switzerland with the help of AFS International, the International Youth Forum, “From Trenches to Bridges” brought together 300 young people from 46 nationalities to Strasbourg from 31 October to 6 November. The Forum was launched at the the Council of Europe where 60 volunteers from 10 countries were in charge of managing participants and providing the educative content.

During this week of visits, lectures and educational workshops, participants had a chance to reflect on topics like learning to live together through intercultural education, active global citizenship, memory and peace, and to provide their views on these questions: What can we learn from World War I that can help us to live together in peace? How to be an active citizen today?

The symbolism of World War I and lessons learned from it were strong during the event. The participants had a chance to meet George King III, the founder of the Ambulance 255 Project, intended to inspire volunteerism in the United States and a professional rebuilder of vehicles that were widely used by AFS in World War I. They visited one of the battlefields from the War, Hartmannswillerkopf, and witnessed plaque unveiling (with Le Cercle des Amis) for the ambulance driver Richard Hall at the military cemetery where he is buried in Moosch, France.

The participants also crossed the border between France and Germany on the footbridge of The Two Shores Garden, spanning the River Rhine, and symbolizing the perfect friendship between France and Germany.

Finally, these young participants drafted the Peace Charter which was symbolically presented to the members of the European Parliament:

The Peace Charter outlines that young global citizens are aware of and ready to tackle the challenges that keep us from living together in peace, and they have concrete ideas and suggestion for actions to create a better world.

The main challenges identified in the Peace Charter are the lack of understanding for others, (unresolved) conflicts, stereotypes and racism, the lack of empathy and awareness about current events and global issues. Young people are concerned about the lack of education regarding culture, religion, poverty, gender, racial and sexual inequality, as well as socioeconomic and environmental issues.

The Peace Charter moves beyond listing problems and offers concrete steps for learning to live together, including being aware of differences and similarities the promotion of tolerance and acceptance of others. The best means to do this are intercultural exchanges, like the ones organized by AFS, which lead to a more open communication and friendships across cultures.

These young leaders of tomorrow echo the need for education and critical thinking, which are also underscored as the main Educational Goals for AFS study abroad and volunteer programs. They were also inspired by Shabana Basij-Rasikh, an exemplary active citizen, gave an inspiring and uplifting speech to the participants about  finding their purpose in life, the situation in Afghanistan, and being passionate about your work in life.

You can read the entire Peace Charter here or watch this video to learn more about this International Youth Forum.

Celebrating Intercultural Journeys: International Education Week 2015

Participating in an exchange program, like those organized by AFS, or studying abroad is known to have many benefits. From increasing your intercultural competence and the way you see and understand the world, to improving your image with prospective employers. From giving you better language skills to improving your creativity and critical thinking. Finally, it’s known to be a boost in confidence and a source of life-long friendships across the globe.Whether you yourself are a current or former exchange student, a volunteer or staff member of AFS or similar organizations and institutions that provide opportunities for internationalizing education, this week is an opportunity to take a step back, reflect on your intercultural journey and celebrate its benefits. Why is that?

The week of 16 November is when International Education Week in 2015 takes place. It is created as a celebration of the benefits of international education and exchange around the world, an opportunity to celebrate world cultures, people, and language while affirming the critical role that intercultural exchanges and education play in fostering mutual understanding.

International Education Week started as a joint initiative of the US Departments of State and Education, and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide. This one week of activities is aimed to result in a knowledge exchange that enriches communities around the world.

What can you do?

  • Join in the celebrations by sharing your input on this year’s topic, “My Intercultural Journey”. Share your photos, experiences and thoughts with your friends, on social media or as a comment to this blog post! Get inspired here.
  • Find out more about global goals (SDGs) in education that the world is working together to reach by 2030. All matters related to this topic can be found here.
  • Learn more about International Education Week and events scheduled for the week by visiting the official website. Is there an event you know of that is not on the list? Share this info on the site!

See how AFS exchange students describe the benefits of their educational experience abroad:


AFS Volunteers Trailblazing in Turkey

This blog post has been taken from AFS Volunteer Voices, a site where AFS volunteers from all over the world share their stories and experiences. It is an amazing story of intercultural learning in action – the story of how one person can set a big change in motion, leading AFS volunteers to fulfill their mission of global citizenship. We thank María Omodeo for sharing the story.

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Student Assessment in Hakkari

The following experience from Turkey is by far not the usual volunteer work. Yet we believe it is a great example of what AFS can be if we work hard and are courageous.

It’s another AFS weekend and this one starts at 4 a.m. on a Friday. Our flights are at 6.30, one of us leaving from Istanbul, the other from Izmir. Get up, get dressed, get ready and hit the road. We have a brief chat on the phone around 5 o’clock.

- Are you ready?

- I’m already in the taxi. You?

- Cool, I’m leaving home right now. Nervous?

- A bit. My friends think that I’m crazy and I couldn’t tell my mom that I was going. She would go nuts.

- Same here, but hey, it’ll be alright.

- I know. See you in Ankara.

Two separate flights takes us both to Ankara. First leg of the trip is now completed. At 7.30 we hug each other. We are excited and to be honest, yes, a bit nervous. Another two hour flight and we find ourselves in a tiny airport in the eastern city of Van. We call our contact teacher. She tells us that a vehicle will pick us up soon, just wait outside the airport. Sure enough, a small commercial vehicle soon stops by. Two gentlemen greet us and take our bags. On the way to Van city centre, we chat a bit about how tense the atmosphere is after a very long summer during which, hundreds of lives have been lost to bombings and clashes. “All we want is peace” the driver says, “we want them all to leave us be.”

We are then transported to a small bus and our 4 hour journey starts. The road is long and winding through mountains and canyons. We’ve seen this view before, many times, in France, Italy, Austria; it is just like the Alps – but with a twist. There are watch towers and security check points all along the way. We are going to Hakkari, or Colemerg as the locals call it in Kurdish; a small city locked in between mountains, stuck between Iraq and Iran. A city associated with unrest, exploding bombs and endless fights between the Turkish Army and the Kurdish rebel groups. When the bus driver learns that we are coming from the west, he starts explaining us the area: the ancient castle up there, the beautiful valley down below, and constantly repeats the same theme as our previous driver – we want peace!

It’s now 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we enter the city. We quickly leave our bags to the hotel and head to the high school we are being waited for, passing by military vehicles such that we have only seen on TV before. We go through the gates of the school and there’s a festive air awaiting us. The teachers, the students, everyone hugs us, kisses us, greets us as if we are celebrities. “I can’t believe that you are here” one student says with a huge smile on her face. “We have been promised so much before, but all have been forgotten. We never actually thought you would come” another adds. We are a bit confused – we are here only to do the first stage of the AFS student assessment for the 2016-2017 year program.

The story actually started eight months ago. In a volunteer training in Istanbul, we have met a very special teacher, mother of two AFS’ers, who has decided to go to Hakkari to teach for a year. She tells us how incredible her students are and if we could do something, anything for her pupils. The light in her eyes becomes an inspiration for us and in two months, we prepare a short-term exchange for eleven students to come and visit Izmir.

At the end of May, the students arrive and are placed with local families. They attend workshops especially designed for them, go on cultural visits and take part in daily life. One week passes quick and the students go back home, but they never leave us. They write us several times a week, send us photographs, call us, keep us up to date of their lives over there, far far away. Meanwhile, the fighting gets intense in the area and this time we start calling them day and night, just to check that they are safe and sound.

At the same time, they talk to their friends and families. They tell the people around them what an experience this one-week exchange has been and that there’s this thing called AFS, an international student exchange program. Autumn comes, and they tell us that they want to apply. “Sure” we say, “Here’s how to. We would be very happy.”

In couple of weeks, we receive over 90 applications. We pinch ourselves, can this be true? 90 applications from Hakkari, it’s magic. Even if one of them is found eligible, can you imagine its impact on this city? Hence, it’s a very special AFS weekend for us and it started at 4 a.m.

The first stage of the AFS student assessment is a multiple-choice test. It’s an evaluation based on general knowledge and skill. The students fill the classrooms at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. We distribute the papers and start the clock. Will they be able to do it? With so much inequality they are facing, how will they fare compared to students in much more prosperous parts of the country? We don’t yet know the answer, but we get a hunch: They will do just fine. And soon we see the reason as we talk with their teachers. What they may lack in physical conditions, they compensate with the help of some of the most amazingly idealist teachers we have ever seen. Some of the teachers confide in us: “I was shattered with horror when I first heard that I was appointed to Hakkari” one says. “But, the city has changed me. I was afraid of the unknown, and now that I know the place, I don’t want to leave.”

The test is over, but the students don’t leave us. They grab us from both arms, “you are here for us, we can’t just go, we’ll show you our city” they say. And the day goes like that, one door opens another, and by sunset, we might have met half the city.

It is not the poverty that strikes us the most, nor the countless military vehicles. It’s the lack of hope we observe, for things not changing ever. And by just coming to Hakkari, we give them something: a small, very small hope for one small change in this city. A hope that not even themselves, but perhaps a friend, one of their own might be selected for an AFS year somewhere far away to see a different world. And we cannot wipe the smile off our faces for we know that we have a part in that. But the real credit is not ours; it belongs to one courageous AFS volunteer, 52, mother of two, who has chosen willingly to leave her home and come to teach here. She’s the one who started it all. Next morning, we pack our bags and leave Hakkari to go back home, but we sure leave our hearts in this city locked in between mountains.

We already know what a great thing AFS is, but we may sometimes get stuck in the routine of events and forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. Sure, AFS is a great acronym for another fat student, and that’s fun. But it is also born out of the courage of some young men who were brave enough to help save lives working as ambulance drivers in battle fields, and some have given their lives while doing that. It is these courageous young men who have started the AFS exchange programs to contribute to world peace. And along with this legacy that we inherit, comes a huge responsibility: Working for peace requires diligence and courage, and we need to have them both more than ever right now. For we are not just a student exchange program, we are AFS Volunteers.


Turkish AFS Volunteers will continue reporting their works in Hakkari. If you wish to support us, please do contact AFS Volunteers Association of Turkey (, TKV/AFS Turkey (, or follow us on Facebook

Walk the Talk: AFS at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum

This blog post was contributed by an AFSer from Iceland, Alma Dóra Ríkarðsdóttir who was one of the representatives of AFS at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum which took place in Paris, France on 26-28 October. Read on to find out more about this event and the role AFSers as active global citizens and relentless change-makers played in it.

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Active global citizens, change makers, ambassadors of peace through intercultural learning. Volunteers who walk their talk and make a difference. Volunteers who participate in discussions on global matters and act on their mission of being the change they want to see in this world. Volunteers of AFS.

So why is it important that AFS had two youth representatives at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Development? Because we care. We care and we can have an impact.

In addition to the institutional representative Eva Vitkova, the two AFS youth representatives were Alma Dóra Ríkarðsdóttir from AFS Iceland, alumna of 2011-2012 exchange program to Italy and volunteer of the year in her organization and Marcelo Lopes from AFS Brazil, alumnus of 2011-2012 program to Hungary, facilitator of intercultural learning and president of the local AFS chapter Comite Dourados, Brazil. Both of them attended the AFS Youth Volunteer Forum in Buenos Aires earlier this year, are involved in the Volunteer Voices initiative and care very deeply for global issues and sustainability.

Representatives from Iceland and Brazil have two interesting and completely different viewpoints of the two very important topics of the forum. Still they did not find this to be quite enough to cover the all the perspectives of AFSers. This is why they started by reaching out to volunteers from all over the world to hear what they had to say. The survey published in order to do so got over 160 responses from 41 countries that represented AFS´s input at the forum.  Almost 90% of those who participated in the survey claimed to be interested in contributing to a project to encourage sustainability as a follow up of the forum. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the survey and who offered amazing suggestions how AFS could contribute more actively to sustainable development:

“It could be an idea to look at how AFS workshops can be organized in a more sustainable way by reducing and reusing paper and other materials”.
“We can generate an impact on people, making them see it is in their hands to do something about sustainability”.
“Every AFSer could be asked to teach one new good habit to their host family and bring one back home”.
“The first step is to educate all our volunteers on the subject and encourage them to be more sustainable in their everyday lives and teach them how to do that”.

The Forum itself took place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris where around 500 representatives from 159 member states came together under the title of “Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet”. The participants took part in discussions on climate change and the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The outcomes were globally recommended actions that participants formed throughout the Forum. The methodology used was the Future Literacy KnowLab and participants had the opportunity of applying for peer-facilitating the discussions as well as participating. Being familiar with the concept of facilitating a discussion, our volunteers attended the training session followed by peer-facilitating the main workshop of the event.

This was a great experience that they took with them home to their organizations and will keep in their AFS toolbox for future trainings. The workshop consisted of three levels where participants imagined their predicted and preferred future and worked on building bridges to connect these two in order to create a vision of the future they would like to build. In order to do so, there were a lot of discussions, presentations, artistic approaches and people from different backgrounds deciding which global actions to present to the President of the UNESCO General Conference.

As a follow up to the Forum the UNESCO has published the outcomes which you can find here. The outcomes are focused in areas of Young Global Citizens for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet, covering in depth topics like rights, freedoms and responsibilities, diversity and identity, knowledge, awareness and media, and capturing the energy of youth. Watch short summaries about the outcomes of each day at the Forum here:

Along with the main workshop, participants were engaged in various other activities including smaller scale capacity building workshops, inspiring talks, marketplace introductions and presentations of ongoing UNESCO projects. It was incredibly inspiring to see so many ideas that have come to life during the forums throughout the years. There were also a lot of networking opportunities in the program including diverse concerts and a boat ride on the Seine. What was maybe one of the greatest experiences of the Forum was to get to know amazing people from countries where AFS does not yet exist. Meeting these strong characters and visionaries from some countries of Africa, the Middle East and many more places gives us hope that one day AFS will expand to every country in this world.


A wonderful week at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication

This blog post was contributed by fellow AFSer, Fran Baxter. Fran’s involvement with AFS started when she sent both her daughters on AFS exchanges and since than she has hosted many AFS students at her home in Australia. Over the years Fran has taken part in many AFS activities in various roles and currently she works part time for AFS Australia as the Learning Services Manager and manages the AFS Educational Impact Assessment Pilot as a consultant for AFS International.

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From July 13 to July 24 the 39th annual Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) took place at Reed College, in Portland, Oregon. I was fortunate to attend SIIC for the second time, my first time being in 2013.

SIIC is an extremely engaging, motivating, positive and inclusive learning environment. For two weeks, hundreds of people working in education, training, business and consulting, in both international and domestic intercultural contexts, come together to take workshops on different topics within the field of intercultural communication.

The most difficult part of attending SIIC is choosing which courses to take, as all courses are relevant to anyone within the intercultural learning field! The faculty are highly skilled, knowledgeable and approachable and they include renowned intercultural theorists such as Janet Bennett, Executive Director and co-founder of the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI), Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, Mick Vande Berg, Darla Deardorff and Stella Ting Toomey, just to name a few.

In total over 550 participants attended SIIC this summer, representing a diverse national and professional group of learners who are eager to learn and share their expertise. AFS was represented at SIIC this year, with 21 AFS volunteers and staff attending from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, India and USA over the course of the two weeks. Of these 21 AFSers, 15 are AFS-SIIC scholars which means that they received scholarships from AFS Intercultural Programs to attend SIIC. They are now back in their home countries completing their scholarship requirements which integrate their SIIC experience with their roles at AFS. I’m personally very excited to apply what I learned at SIIC to the AFS Educational Impact Assessment Pilot and local projects at AFS Australia.

I would recommend SIIC to anyone who wants to expand his or her intercultural competence, and to individuals who recognise that the learning journey continues for life. Come to network with like-minded individuals who recognise the value of shared knowledge. Come to interact with the teachers and students who were happy to share their experience and are open to new learning. Come for the many “a-ha!” moments, and to transfer what you learn to your context within AFS or beyond.

AFS Scholars at SIIC 2015

Each year I attend SIIC, I am left with one thing: the desire to learn more.

See you next July for the 40th year of SIIC!


Connect: Intercultural Insights for Global Citizens on Interfaith Dialogue

AFS Intercultural Link Magazine now has a new name and a refreshing interactive digital format! Our new name, Connect: Intercultural Insights for Global Citizens, reflects both our long-standing commitment to connect individuals and cultures and our more recent focus to convene an increasingly diverse community of advocates. Going digital also provides the perfect platform to discuss and debate the critical intercultural issues of today and tomorrow.

See the full issue here: and learn more about how Intercultural Learning needs Interfaith Dialogue.

In this issue:

Learn about what skills are needed for interfaith dialogue and try out our simple but effective activity that simulates an multifaith “meetup.” This activity is designed to be used in the classroom, after school or with adults. Hear from one AFSer about his experience walking in someone else’s shoes as he fasted for a day during the holy Muslim season of Ramadan. Then, zoom back in time to read how World War II AFS ambulance drivers from the UK documented and discussed different faiths during their experiences in Lebanon.

Award-winning journalist and creator of The Civil Conversations Project, Krista Tippett is someone who has brought together people from different faiths for many years. Her in-depth interviews with religious leaders and philosophers such as the 14th Dalai Lama, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Thich Nhat Hanh, Elie Wiesel and Jean Vanier made her an excellent choice for our own expert interview on this topic.

And, as usual, we bring you news from around the AFS global network: Be inspired by declarations from the recent AFS International Youth Volunteer Forum that took place in Argentina and discover how AFS Costa Rica and AFS Italy are working together to provide schools in their countries intercultural learning tools, trainings and more. Meet Heidy Utami, an AFS education specialist from Indonesia and find out how you can get involved with Intercultural Dialogue Day this year.

Enjoy our new interactive format! We invite you to share your comments, post, tweet (remember to tag your social media posts with #AFSeffect) or even send us a good old-fashioned email to let us know what you think.

Photo by ©AFS Vivre Sans Frontière, Guillaume Deperrois / Incorp Agency

Photo by ©AFS Vivre Sans Frontière, Guillaume Deperrois / Incorp Agency