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

  • Joe
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Canada
    Pontifical College Josephinum
    No speak French, don't apply!
    07/09/2015

    Found dealing with the Quebec based, French speaking head office very frustrating and had 2 years of confusion and misunderstandings. Forms and instructions were in French, translated often poorly into English....

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  • Rachel
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    I live in Northville, Michigan. In Finland, I lived in Joensuu.
    The Best Summer of My Life
    06/01/2015

    I went on this program last summer (summer of 2014), and I was 16. It was absolutely fantastic. However, I'd like to caution you that it could have been a terrible experience if I hadn't gotten so lucky as to get the best host family in the world.

    Many of my friends who also went on the program were not well matched with their host families, which resulted in a bad experience for them overall. I don't think that this was the fault of the program; I think it was just because there didn't happen to be host families available that were a good fit for them. If you are considering going on this program (or any study abroad program, really) make sure that you are ready to explore the country and enjoy yourself even if your host family is not the most fun or interesting.

    Okay, back to the good stuff. Finland is, in my (very biased) opinion, one of the best places for a teenager to study abroad. This is because Finns spend a lot of time alone and deep in thought. I really changed as a person while in Finland because of all of that thought, and many of my friends did too. We learned more about ourselves and became more mature.

    I know that there are a few things that lots of people worry about before they go to Finland, so really quickly, I'm going to tell you the absolute truth (at least, from my experience):
    1. Saunas. Don't worry, it's totally acceptable to wear a bathing suit. I always did. You'll probably wind up in the sauna with people who don't wear bathing suits, but it's not a big deal. Seriously, don't overthink it. Girls will be with girls and boys with boys, so there's nothing to be afraid of. Saunas are one of my favorite parts of being in Finland!
    2. Weather. For the summer program, you really shouldn't worry. Of the 6 weeks, I was in shorts + T-shirts for about 4-5 of them. Finland does have slightly chillier summers than I'm used to (I'm from Michigan), but you don't need to bundle up or abandon your dreams of going to the beach. I swam every day for the majority of the program, and I was rarely cold. Just bring a couple hoodies and jeans in case.
    3. Language. Finnish is hard; there's no other way to put it. But you don't need to worry! Frankly, you don't even need to know any Finnish in Finland because most people know English. Not everyone is fluent, but you will always be able to find someone who speaks enough English to be your friend or to help you if you need it. I didn't know any Finnish when I arrived and had no troubles with that. Sure, it would've been nice to know some Finnish, but it wasn't a big deal.
    4. Homesickness. This is a bit of a problem, to be honest. I only got a tad homesick, but I've never gotten homesick before. It's bound to happen when you're so far from home for so long, and the time alone makes it worse. Even still, you'll be fine. AFS is great at giving you advice that will keep you from getting homesick. Trust me, it really works! If you've been away from home for at least 2 weeks without trouble, then you're fine for the program.

    If you can't tell, I really like this program, and I definitely recommend it to most anyone. I would not recommend it to anyone who doesn't like the outdoors (Finns LOVE the outdoors), isn't open minded when learning about foreign countries, has had serious problems with being homesick in the past, or isn't ready to step outside of their comfort zones and enjoy themselves even if it's tempting to withdraw from everyone else. If you go on the program, my biggest advice is: be determined to have fun, no matter where you are or what you're doing.

    How could this program be improved?

    Better host family placement. Some of my friends were poorly matched with their host families or had host families that knew very little English.

    Photos:
    My group! There were 11 of us going to Finland for the program last summer.
    This is me at my host family's veterinary clinic! I have always wanted to be a vet, so I got to shadow vets at the clinic! That's one of the many reasons why I say my host family was perfect for me!!
    One of the many beautiful Finnish lakes.
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  • Sophia
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Japan for 11 months
    05/13/2015

    I went to Japan for 11 months through AFS, and it was a wonderful experience, and I truly believe that I am a better person from doing it. It was extremely difficult to adapt to the culture and the language, and I don't believe that it is for everyone. I had no trouble with my host family, but some things that were done in their house shocked me, like the extreme gender stereotyping going on. Also, the school I went to was wonderful, but as an all-girls private school, it was difficult for me to adapt. On the whole, I think my view of the world has changed through my experience and I have friends in Japan that I would like to keep close to me. I think that everyone should have a chance to go to a foreign country and learn about the different cultures because more understanding leads to more peace.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would put more emphasis on culture shock, and I mean REAL culture shock, not just that the Japanese take showers before bathing.

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  • Jacob
    Age: 18 or younger
    Male
    Salinas, California
    Lemons and Lemonade
    05/07/2015

    I think about the experiences I had during my time and how they changed me and changed my views on life. I experienced things during my stay both good and bad that affected me deeply. Between the numerous bad times and occasional depression some would ask if it was worth it. But I would say it was absolutely worth it. I never had more fun, learned more things, or grown more as a person than I did during my year in Japan. I think the experiences that feel the hardest at the time can become the most defining aspects of our character. And I am only a stronger person for having gone through it. I think, in a way, that everyone finds something that benefits them from going abroad. Whether it be the relationships we forge, the knowledge we attain, or the lessons we learn, it is something that stays with us for life and something grander than ourselves that we are forever a part of.

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  • Sasha
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Southern California
    Tough year, but worth the struggle
    05/07/2015

    Studying abroad in Japan is not for the faint hearted; the culture shock is very difficult, even if you are prepared for it. Every last person in my chapter switched families at least once, and we were often exhausted and homesick. That being said, and despite me feeling that 90% of my days in Japan weren't so great, the 10% of days that turned out well were worth it. I felt alive, like I'd conquered the world, I felt what true happiness really is like. I learned to open my heart up everyday and try again, and I learned how to love people even if they couldn't love me back. You can survive, you will grow so much, and learn, and become stronger. It's worth it.

    How could this program be improved?

    Support for students on the Japanese side of the program could be a lot better. My liaison stopped communicating with me only 3 months after I got there and I had trouble finding someone to talk to.

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