Last august, I left Europe and went for my first time ever to Latin-America. I was going on exchange to Argentina. I had a great familie in a lovely town, made friends for life at school and had my first relationship.
My big problems with AFS started with the start of my relationship. Before that, they already refused to pay for my school (although my contract said they had to pay) and refused to help another exchange student who was in a very difficult situation with her host family. They tried to keep it quiet for their own image and only helped when the situation in the host student's family became untenable. This later happened with several exchange students. I got really lucky with my family and had no problems at all with them. Until then it was not so bad for me.
But then I got into a relationship... Less than 1 week later we were suddenly (and in a very rude manner) convened for an emergency meeting to talk about 'all the problems we caused'. The volunteers even got angry if we didn't respond to their messages immediately, while sometimes I just had school! But, back about the meeting, one of the volunteers started telling us that we were making their lives difficult by causing problems all around. He said we shouldn't bother them with all our problems. Because apparently we don't pay thousands of euros for that?!? We only asked them for help with our problems because we could not solve them ourselves. In addition, they had simply accepted host families without thoroughly screening them, leaving several exchange students with problems with their host families. A little later the volunteer said something that made me very angry. We COULDN'T have any relationships. He said they could decide this and that these were national AFS rules. Obviously this was a lie. No exchange organization can prohibit its participants from having relationships. Obviously, I didn't quit my relationship.
One of the exchange students told a few friends at school about the problems with AFS, she was having a hard time, and as is often the case in a small provincial town, such things soon went around. Her contact person from AFS got angry with her, and the volunteers tried to force her to change school. When this failed and she was in a second (bad) host family, the AFS volunteers tried to force her to talk to a doctor about her 'mental problems'. We soon realized that they wanted to try to have her declared crazy so that they could send her back. Fortunately, she contacted the AFS office of her own country and intervened. She could stay but would eventually flee herself for the AFS volunteers. But that's her story.
Okay, now back to what they did to me. Let me briefly sum it up: they lied to my parents about my relationship, they tried to contact my friend, probably with the aim of setting him up against me and lying to both of us. After all, they had already done this that year with 2 other exchange students who had a relationship together. They manipulated, lied and deceived friends, families of several guest students!
The volunteers of my AFS committee were the biggest problem of my exchange. Quite funny when you consider that they were there to solve our problems. I have long hesitated to mention names and places. I wanted to write this story to warn people. You can be lucky but also have bad luck with your AFS volunteers. I have decided at least to state clearly who did nothing wrong. My own contact person was a very nice person who helped me learn Spanish and was always available. Whether she always helped equally well is another matter, but she always did her best. Except when I inquired about the AFS rules in Argentina regarding travel, that was a mistake that she will hopefully not make again. This has ensured that during my exchange I have not seen anything of beautiful Argentina. I want to tell everyone: enjoy your exchange and if you are unlucky with your AFS volunteers, just keep them out of your life as much as possible. That is the best thing you can do to protect you, your wonderful exchange, your friends and possibly boyfriend / girlfriend. Good luck and have fun! 😀🌎