AFS-USA

AFS-USA

About

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.

Website
www.afsusa.org
Founded
1947
Headquarters

120 Wall Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10005
United States

Scholarships

AFS-USA Scholarships
AFS-USA Grants & Scholarships

The opportunity to study abroad should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Annually, we award scholarships to about half of our study abroad students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

Reviews

Default avatar
✈️ Just an
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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
Kendra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

Chandler
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My year in Argentina truly was life changing. I made life long friends and another family (host family). I still use my Spanish quite regularly. I ended up studying global studies with a focus on Latin America and a dual degree with Spanish in college (if that tells you anything about impact my exchange year had). Even though it’s been 6 years I think about my study abroad year almost daily. I would encourage anyone that has the means and ability to study abroad with AFS. I also ended up study abroad in college for a semester in Madrid because study abroad ended up being such an important thing to me. If you study abroad it will leave with lifelong memories and skills, you will have a global understanding. I even wrote a blog when I was abroad http://chandlerinargentina.blogspot.com/?m=1

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly there is not much AFS Argentina could do to improve. I do however think my host city chapter AFS Formosa could improve.
Default avatar
Camille
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It's quite interesting to see the world from another's point of view. When I went abroad to Costa Rica, the Rio Olympics were ongoing and preparation for Presidential election was commencing. I learned what others thought of American politics-many mixed opinions (as is life in general). In addition to the culture (tica time, gallo pinto, big families), I learned quite a bit about myself. I found that I enjoyed spending time with people, merely just talking. I learned that I loved hugs because even if I didn't know all the nuances of the words "I love you" in Spanish, hugs could convey so much more. I learned that my definition of family could be greatly expanded to not only those who cared for me in my home country, but those who I truly allow to come into my life and who embrace me into their own.

What would you improve about this program?
Students should be allowed to know in advance any AFS activities that will occur (time, place, etc.). It allows students (particularly planners like me) to anticipate future events and plan accordingly for them.
Default avatar
Mellanie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience studying abroad in Paraguay had been a wonderful experience because I wasn't only learning and studying Spanish but I was able to be involved in the culture and life of the residents. I had a family and they will forever be my second family. I keep in contact with them every now and then I would update them on what is going on in my life and they do the same. I have also made many friends and they are great and also live abroad. While studying my professors where very helpful and divided the time from learning Spanish and learning the history of Paraguay. The other participants, my friends and myself had a chance to see historic sites or just natural sites while studying. I engaged more with the people and discovered how I can be challenged and have fun with my experience. You also get to do things with your family and have personal, meaningful relationships with the people you meet.

What would you improve about this program?
This program can improve with the help of other AFSers that are in the country.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 18 of 81

Alumni Interviews

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

Jennifer Duncan

Jen is an ambitious design student who can't wait to visit her families in other countries.

Four people posing for a photo outside a cathedral.

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.

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