Why choose AFS-USA?

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 75 years. That’s over seven decades of history and experience in international education with an exemplary record of safety, security, and service to students, parents, and educators.


AFS-USA Scholarships

AFS-USA Grants & Scholarships

We offer $1 million dollars in merit and need-based scholarships thanks to the generosity of numerous donors who have a deep connection with AFS and value intercultural exchange. These scholarships range from $1,000 to full tuition, for both our summer and year/semester study abroad programs.

$1,000 - $5,000

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

AFS-USA is committed to providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals from diverse backgrounds and communities, including mixed heritage, foreign nationalities, and all socio-economic levels.

LGBTQIA+ Support

AFS-USA welcomes members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and actively encourages and supports their participation in all types of AFS opportunities, including studying abroad, volunteering, and hosting exchange students.

Accessibility Support

AFS-USA is committed to practicing and promoting accessibility and inclusion.


profile of woman wearing sunglasses
Yes, I recommend this program

La Vita Italiana

I'd always known that I would study abroad in college, but when I was introduced to programs that would allow me to be an exchange student in high school, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Unlike college where you've already had a few years of independence as an adult, going abroad in high school can seem quite daunting, but is so worth it! My time in Sardinia, Italy taught me not only another language and culture but helped me become more mature and independent as I learned to advocate for myself amidst changing host families and taking 3rd year Latin (in Italian) at a scientific high school when I'm more linguistically/artistically inclined... I still keep in touch with the friends I made during my year abroad and have visited a few of them in their home countries in addition to reuniting with my host siblings as adults in various European countries.

  • Became proficient in Italian
  • Gained confidence and independence
  • Made life long Italian and other international friends
  • No choice regarding high school's concentration
  • Lack of support while transitioning between host families
  • Remote location
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Best year of my life in Switzerland

I had the best year of my life in Switzerland. I am so grateful I got to step out of my comfort zone and go abroad for a year. I grew so much as a person and learned many lessons that can't be taught in any other way. For me, the best part of my year was family and friends. I felt incredibly welcome no matter where I was and knew that I was safe. This allowed me to focus on things like learning the Swiss-German language, which I picked up in about 6 months. I know that for the rest of my life I will have on foot in Switzerland because of how greatly I loved it.

  • language learning opportunity
  • make friends from around the world
  • get to see beautiful European history all around you
  • Regret not having step out of your comfort zone
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Argentina 1979-1980 year abroad

Amazing! The people, the culture, the country…so stunning for a young girl from Connecticut who landed in Sant Fe, Argentina. Only wish that when I wanted to change host families after 6 months of a year stay that they would have supported my request. It made my remainder of my year stay impossible to be happy and emotionally free to experience Argentina fully. Instead it was through my lense of emotional discomfort, sadness and unhappiness that I endured my year abroad for what I had dreamed and occasionally experienced in Argentina with other host families as an accepting, welcoming, and open hearted life experience.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Asking for a change in host family within first 3 months
Default avatar
✈️ Just an
Yes, I recommend this program

My AFS was an experience I would never forget but my AFS volunteers were awful

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! 😀🌎

What would you improve about this program?
Start screening volunteers and guest families in Argentina (better)!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Highly Recommended

My semester in Panama in high school started my love for languages and the world. It set me on the path to living in many other countries and studying cultures and languages in college. I learned the power of hospitality and tolerance and gained a second family and group of friends. AFS is so unique because it's a volunteer run organization and that means that the support staff and host families truly care. I miss Panama so much!


Displaying 1 - 9 of 19

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Finland Summer Home-stay program because it was the perfect choice for the amount of time I had to go abroad, as well as the kind of cultural experience I was looking for.

I had graduated from high school that spring and was already enrolled in university for the fall, so I needed a summer trip. Knowing the trip would be short, I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be a language barrier to stop me from really getting to know my host family, but still somewhere with a very different culture.

The Scandinavian and Nordic countries were perfect; of them, I chose Finland due to the offer of a summer home-stay that would really let me immerse myself in the culture.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program provider was AFS, and they assisted with some of the financial aspects by offering a scholarship and multiple fundraising options. They also organized all required seminars before and during the trip, as well as all international travels to Finland until we were placed with our host families.

The trip began in New York where one of the mandatory seminars took place before we left for Finland. Domestic flights or other travel costs and arrangements were not made by AFS and had to be taken care of by yourself. However, they do make arrangements to pick you up at the airport in New York at specific times and contact you to make sure you arrived safely. Passports, visas, and all medical requirements also have to be organized on your own.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Honestly, I wish I'd been able to stay longer. I love my host family, and loved my time abroad, so my only advice would be that if you want to go abroad, or even just thinking about it, start planning and researching as soon as possible.

I was already in my senior year of high school and enrolled in college when on a whim, I decided I wanted to go to Finland. I only wish I'd given myself more time to be there. Aside from that, another piece of advice is to experience as many new things as possible! This trip is about learning, exploring, and having fun; don't let fear or insecurity get in the way of that.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day or week will definitely depend on what you're interested in and what your host family is interested in. Hiking, fishing, swimming, and other activities in nature are very popular in Finland due to their abundance of beautiful forests and lakes. Many families also have a summer cottage where you can really enjoy nature out of the city.

There's also roasting sausages over the fire, shopping in the city, and maybe even a trip to an amusement park (such as Linnanmäki or Särkänniemi) if you're lucky. Oh, and of course, you can expect to see lots of ice cream stands!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I didn't really have any fears before the trip, aside from the nervous week or so while I waited for the results of my scholarship application. Luckily, things worked themselves out, and after that, I wasn't afraid until I was sitting alone on an 11 PM flight to New York.

What if this was a huge mistake? What if I missed my layover flight? I had worked so hard to get here; what if this was a waste of time and money?

I overcame it by keeping myself busy; I went over my itinerary and airport maps, organized my papers and plane tickets.

Airports can be stressful, especially if it's your first time travelling alone, but by the end of my trip, I had been on 8 airplanes through 7 different airports through three countries, and everything worked itself out fine. In fact, better than fine, it was really cool and fun! I got to fly over the Pentagon and watch the sunrise over Iceland!

What was your favorite part of the trip?

I loved everything about my trip, and I am especially grateful for the amazing family I was paired with. I was also very lucky that my family loves to travel, and took me to lots of different cities all over Finland.

My favorite trip was probably to the city Tampere. The city was built between two lakes, and it was built right over the river connecting the lakes. I loved all the bridges, trains, and the old industrial brick factories, and the cool malls and art galleries many of those old factories now contain. One of the days we were there, we left the city to go hiking. After making our way down a small ravine, we got to roast sausages and marshmallows by a lake, before walking on wooden planks through a bog.

Professional Associations

Alliance for International Exchange Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo