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.


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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!

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

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.
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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.
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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.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I would strongly suggest that participants are given more freedom. I wasn’t allowed to go nearly anywhere until February of my exchange which did not leave much time to truly explore my surroundings. But what I did explore I absolutely love. I wasn’t able to see much more than the city where I lived and two other regions and in a country like India it should really be facilitated for students to see more for a complete understanding of Indian culture because there are so many.

What would you improve about this program?
The staff of AFS India should be more helpful


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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews 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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