AFS is expanding its Global Prep programs to include more academic and volunteer programs for secondary school students interested in combining scholarship with an exciting cultural immersion journey. The most popular themes for these short-term, content-rich study abroad programs are STEM, history, art, linguistics and volunteering for sustainable development.  Last summer, 100 teens from eight countries participated in the BP Global STEM Academies hosted by AFS Organizations in three countries: Brazil, Egypt and USA. This year, more than 500 students from over 35 countries are expected to participate in a variety of life-changing Global Prep programs.

“Broadening perspectives of students at this age can have a lifelong impact,” Efrem Fisher, Director of Program Services and Development at AFS Intercultural Programs explains. “In fact, preliminary results from our recent AFS alumni survey show how international exchanges shape young minds and hone global skills needed in schools and workplaces.“

Early readings from the survey also confirm what AFS has believed throughout our 72- year history offering study abroad programs: Structured international learning experiences help develop active global citizens—people who have the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to  tackle world challenges like climate change.

Global Prep offers a combination of hands-on learning, classroom lessons taught by experts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and other subjects. Depending on the theme, students also visit labs, tech companies, art galleries, museums, farms or work directly with humanitarian aid workers supporting refugees or underserved communities.

Embedded in every AFS Global Prep program is a tested intercultural learning curriculum, teaching participants about culture, empathy, diversity, intercultural collaboration and communication skills. The learning journey supports students before, during and after the program. Learning happens through online modules and in-person sessions—all facilitated by skilled AFS trainers. Intercultural education research confirms that having an educational framework with cultural mentoring is by far the most influential factor for improving the intercultural competence of study abroad participants.

Cool tech; cutting-edge science

STEM-focused AFS Global Prep programs offer a diversity of subjects. Although the majority of programs run from June to August, STEM programs are offered year round. Currently, more than a dozen programs are available in a fantastic spread of countries. Here are some highlights:

  • Students interested in improving their English language skills while working in the STEM labs can apply for the AFS Ireland program in Dublin’s renowned Trinity College.
  • AFS India’s STEM program helps teens design mobile apps to fly drones and understand the basics of using Raspberry Pi (technology).
  • AFS Germany’s Global Prep program will take teens to Autostadt Wolfsburg, where Volkswagen builds its cars. They also will visit student labs of Bielefield University to learn how to extract DNA, while discovering the cultural delights of Berlin.
  • In Córdoba, Argentina participants of a two-week AFS Argentina program will experience living with a local host family and participate in a unique nature and science camp.

“I went to Nepal hoping to make a difference, but I didn’t expect how much the trip would change me… Serving in Nepal [was] a huge turning point in my life because it deepened my passion for volunteer work,” says a US teen who participated in the Global Prep program themed “Community Development in the Himalayas”.

AFS’ largest Global Prep program is the BP Global STEM Academies, sponsored by the international energy giant BP.  Gearing up for a second year, the four-week experience is already a huge hit among teen STEM hopefuls. A whopping 96% of 2018 participants reported they were satisfied with the program’s cultural  adventures and intercultural learning—from structured activities and interacting with other students. What were the top areas of improvement in terms of global competence? According to the post-program assessment, students gained a greater understanding of these two areas: how culture influences their perception of the world and what culture means to them. The teens also revealed that they developed a deeper concern for the values and realities of others.

The selection process for the 2019 cohort of this program is now in progress now. Plans for the 2020 programs are also underway.

“It was an amazing experience,” said a scholarship winner from Germany who participated in the BP Global STEM Academy in Brazil in 2018. “I had the chance to grow, to get to know all those wonderful people from around the world, to learn more about STEM topics and cultures. It inflamed a fire in me that motivates me to think critically and to question things.”

For more information about applying to join STEM-based or other AFS Global Prep programs, please contact AFS.