AFS-USA

Provider

AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS Organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board.

We've been exchanging students throughout the world for more than 65 years. That's six decades of history and experience in international education with an exemplary record of safety, security, and service to students, parents, and educators.

The AFS Network around the World

Programs from AFS

Program Reviews

  • Anna
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Wayzata, Minnesota
    University of Minnesota
    9/10
    AFS Switzerland 2014-2015
    12/19/2015

    I was in Switzerland for eleven months, ending in July 2015. I would absolutely recommend the AFS program, the Switzerland chapter is wonderful. My host family truly is a family to me (we're skyping Sunday). I met so many other exchange students, and because Switzerland is a small country, it wasn't difficult to travel inside and outside of the country. Some of my favorite memories include the exchange student parties in the parks, using my days off to explore a new canton or city, and hiking with my Swiss parents or watching movies with my Swiss sister. One experience unique to AFS is the volunteer camps: I and about 30 other exchange students spent a week in the mountains helping Swiss farmers. It was hard work, but after we'd finish, we'd return to the house we stayed in, cook dinner, dance (a lot), tell stories, and play games. I loved being with so many people who understood my experience and immersing myself in the environment, and it brought me closer to a lot of my friends, many of whom I'm still in regular contact with. I wish I could go back to my Swiss family or be on exchange again, I absolutely love traveling and I'm looking to do more of it at every opportunity. If you're thinking about exchange: do it. It won't always be easy, but it's absolutely worth it in the end and you'll experience so much personal growth.

    How could this program be improved?

    Communication between chapters. The West metro here in Minnesota isn't as developed as I'd like, and communication between different segments of AFS would have made things smoother.

    Photos:
    AFS Orientation Camp
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  • Isabel
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Washington, DC
    George Washington University
    10/10
    Amazing!
    12/18/2015

    Just like many other exchange returnees will tell you, this trip was life-changing. Although it was very short, at just two weeks, it was long enough for me to love with China. Each day in this program was packed with different activities to do with the other American students on the trip or the Chinese students. We usually had Chinese classes in the mornings at an international school, and spent the afternoons experiencing cultural activities or interacting with Chinese students. We all stayed with host families. I had an amazing family, and we somehow managed to become very close in the short time that I was there, so much that my host sister and I were crying by the time I left, but I still wouldn't take back this trip for the world!

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  • Sandra
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Colorado
    Other
    10/10
    Awesome Experience
    12/18/2015

    My host family had a total of five kids. I enjoyed the hospitality of my host family when I went to Japan. They had a yoga teacher and they decided to sign me up for a few classes. She spoke English, so asking her questions about how to say something made it a little easier. After getting a close relationship with her, she decided to take me on vacation with her to another island with a few friends of hers. After driving two hours and getting on a boat for half an hour, we arrived at a destination that was just beautiful. When we arrived we got treated to delicious food. We went on the beach very often during the trip which was very fun. Also, we decided to go for a swim at the beach. Additionally, we popped fireworks out on the beach having a great time. We also began to hike up in the mountains and saw a various amount of shooting stars. We were able to get a hold of many stars that night, so we decided to get a blanket and lay down on the floor to find more. It was an experience I will never forget.

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  • Hannah
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
    Beloit College
    10/10
    Life-changing.
    12/18/2015

    I had a totally life-changing experience in Paraguay. I was placed with an amazing host family in Pilar. I had a lot of really difficult cultural adjustments to make, but working through those issues are what makes going abroad worth it. :) The Asuncion national office staff and volunteers are wonderful, and most AFSers are placed in that area. I was one of the few people in my arrival group outside the Asuncion and Ciudad del Este areas, and I didn't have a ton going on locally, but that's OK. I think I was more immersed because there were so few AFSers around me and I loved getting to experience a smaller town.

    AFS is one of the best organizations out there. If you're looking for a 5-star hotel and a tour bus, this isn't for you though. It's not a vacation or a trip, it's regular life in another country, with all of the linguistic, cultural, social, introspective, and academic learning that entails. AFS will provide you with the key components you need to make an amazing experience for yourself- a safe host family, a school or community service placement, and ongoing volunteer support. You bring the adventurous attitude, very open mind, and lots and lots of patience. :)

    I recommend Paraguay to people who are truly looking to expand their horizons and break out of their comfort zone. There's no chance to fall back on English here- you'll learn Spanish very quickly and will also get the chance to learn some Guarani. It's not on most itineraries, so you'll never be mistaken for a tourist. Paraguayans are some of the most patient, generous people I've ever met.

    I've since lived and traveled many other places in Latin America and elsewhere, but Paraguay will always have a special place in my heart. <3 Rohayhu Paraguai!

    How could this program be improved?

    I had some communication issues with AFS USA- calls weren't returned promptly, transferred to the wrong people, etc. The offices have since been restructured though, so I wouldn't anticipate that it'd be a big problem anymore.

    Photos:
    A boat on the Río Paraguay
    A horse grazing on the outskirts of Pilar
    A rural road near Salto Monday on an AFS trip.
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  • Jenna
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Chilton, Wisconsin
    University of Minnesota
    10/10
    Funny Stories From My Time In New Zealand
    12/17/2015

    My journey started on an extremely bitter January morning in none other than the windy city of Chicago, where I boarded a connecting flight to the sunny Los Angeles. After bearing one of the coldest Wisconsin winters I could remember, the heat was a blessing. I distinctly remember being petrified that I had forgotten something important like my passport or plane ticket as I walked through the airport. The reality of the trip I was about to take was unimportant to me, believe it or not. I knew I was going to perfectly fine.

    In all honesty, I was excited to be somewhere where the people didn't have a set idea of who you are based on what they have observed from you over a course of ten years in a small town public school. By the time I landed in Auckland and took a connecting flight to Tauranga, I had missed my original school orientation by a couple of hours, so I had the weekend to settle in before I started at Te Puke High School. Unfortunately, my first day was a bit of an awkward, rocky start. The bus that picked my up drove right past my host home, which was a kiwi fruit orchard with a very long driveway. It had a second route, so our bus was one of the first to get dropped off at school. I was a solid 45 minutes early every single day. For that entire time the first day, I did absolutely nothing but blankly stare at a wooden post in the courtyard. Later on, during morning break, me an a few of the other foreigners were sitting on the rugby pitch and I decided to take my lunch out of my backpack. Mind you, this was the same backpack I had used as my carry on and it had had a spare set of clothes. I hadn't realized that I had left a pair of frilly panties in my backpack, and in the process of taking out my lunch, I had knocked it onto the field. I didn't realize this had happened until we started to get up and leave. Many a junior boy had been staring as I tried to casually shove the lace atrocities back into my bag. What a great way to start out the semester, am I right?

    The underwear incident didn't bother me all that much. New Zealand had this profound ability to make the world seem easy going and relaxed. I was much more confident and care-free in New Zealand than I have ever felt in the United States. Maybe it was due to the beautiful scenery and my close proximity or the pacific ocean... or maybe it was the fact that they were pretty easygoing with the foreigners, so it was to no surprise that I managed to conquer over 100 levels of candy crush while in various classes. sMy favorite class was Drama. We were a small, close knit group, and, like most Kiwis, they had little to no reservations when it came to being ridiculous. Pillow fights, hanging from the ceiling, and indoor rugby, were not uncommon. That is until Mr. Smith would bark at them to settle down. That was also the class where I discovered that for the first two months I had regularly been showing a gang sign with my hands, but everyone thought it was hilarious that a little blonde white girl was accidentally representing a notorious gang. Taniana and Victor tried to explain it to me, but I had made it a habit of simply nodding at them since their Maori accents and slang could be so thick sometimes that even asking them to repeat it 12 times wouldn't help.

    Maori slang was also a struggle for me when I joined the girls rugby team. It was basically a team of Maori girls who had been playing since they were toddlers, and a skinny american girl who couldn't even throw the damn ball. I was basically the water girl that they let play sometimes, but I really appreciated their patience with me. With all my incompetence, they were always willing to walk me through whatever it was we were doing. It didn't help much. All I ever did was ran around in circles on the field and get in the way, but they cheered me on anyways.

    Moonball, however, I was much better at. It's basically rugby, but with less rules and a large exercise ball. That's actually how most of the school got to know me. I was the crazy girl who played Moon ball during lunch break. About 50 plus students would play each time it was available during break, but when it came to girls, it was usually the rugby girls (this was before the rugby season started). So to see some random foreign girl no one knew start bolting at guys twice her size, it was a little hard to forget. Especially since they saw me get carried down the field on top of the ball once. Basically, I had tried to knock the ball out of a Senior guy's arms, but he took no notice and continued to run while carrying me along with the ball the entire way down the field. Each time I played, people I had never talked to before would always come and tell me how cool it was that I went so hard out during the games. It made me feel a lot more welcomed, even though all I had done was attack some guy with an exercise ball.

    Then there was the time that my friend Coral, an exchange student from Hawaii, tried to teach me how to surf. The waves that day were huge, and after many many many attempts, I finally managed to catch one. Unfortunately, I also panicked. I couldn't remember how to stand un on the board properly, so I just rode it on my hands and knees while I screamed like a baby. I also had no idea how to stop (if there's even a way to), and the tides along the shoreline would pull out so quick that by the time the next wave came in it was about 15 feet of water and then just sand. I crashed down into the sand and started to sit up in the water, but, again, because the water pulled back out so quick it was hard for me to try to stand up and get out of the way. By the time I managed to get up, the water had pulled my board back at me, and it smashed me in the shins, knocking me over again. Not even a second later, another huge wave engulfed me and sent me tumbling back face first into the sand. This process happened about three more times before I could finally get back to the shore. Coral then came up to me crying not because she had been worried about me, but because she had been laughing so hard watching me struggle with the ocean. She ended up having to run into the water to pee, she was laughing so hard.

    These stories are just a couple of short snapshots of my time in New Zealand. My various other adventures included my shenanigans in the Musical, jumping off of cliffs, being chased by swans while white water kayaking, chasing sheep around on Mt. Maunganui until they chased me back, and walking around school every day with a cheap ukulele. Each day was a new experience that I wouldn't trade for the world, and I am thankful that you took the time let me share a few of them with you.

    How could this program be improved?

    I appreciate the safety precautions that AFS takes to ensure the safety of its students, but I feel that some of its regulations regarding travel that does not involve the host family should be less strict, such as its regulations on having to notify the organization when they wish to stay at a friend's house or if they would like to go on a trip with friends. Let the students take responsibility in their own wellbeing as well.

    Photos:
    Me and other AFS exchange students touring the South Island.
    A few of the many Te Puke High School international students that I regularly ate lunch with (I was the photographer).
    Me, my host siblings, and their friends (I'm in the middle).
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