Study abroad programs effectively prepare young people to navigate, work and volunteer in global and multicultural environments, reports a new global study by AFS Intercultural Programs, a leading international education organization with 70+ years of experience with global exchange programs. The new report titled “Creating Global Citizens: The AFS Effect” demonstrates how study abroad motivates people to become global citizens and become involved in social causes in their communities.

According to 87% of responding alumni, their AFS program experience helped them become global citizens, enabling them to examine and understand local, global, and intercultural issues. Through their study abroad programs alumni gained a high level of understanding of the importance of different people living and working together (86%) and of their own cultural values and biases (86%), while 83% indicated that their AFS experience helped them become more aware of challenges and issues facing the world. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said their exchange motivated them to become more involved in social causes on the local (64%) and global level (61%). 

The AFS study also shows that an international exchange experience also has a direct impact on 21st century workplace skills and attitudes. Among the survey respondents, 90% indicated that their exchange program helped them better communicate and collaborate with people from different cultures and backgrounds, while 84% said AFS helped them develop the ability to adapt in a diverse workplace environment. Close to 70% of alumni agreed or strongly agreed that their exchange program improved their ability to work on a team.

“The results of this research speak to the true power of study abroad programs and their positive effects on building respect for diversity, which translates into a dynamic and thriving workforce. We are proud to discover that so many of our alumni credit their ability to adapt in a diverse workplace environment to their AFS experience abroad,” said Daniel Obst, President & CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. 

As a volunteer-based non-profit organization with a history rooted in altruism, AFS specifically works to pass down the spirit of volunteerism to exchange program participants. According to the survey responses, AFS alumni are highly likely to volunteer after their exchange program. Overall, 60% of AFS alumni report that they volunteer for AFS or for another organization. The most common types of organizations former participants volunteer for include youth, cultural, sports, educational or religious organizations. One in three alumni (35%) volunteer for AFS.  

The “Creating Global Citizens” report is AFS’s first large-scale, global alumni survey. More than 10,500 former participants of study abroad programs from 80 countries took the survey. 

The report was launched on November 5 in New York City at The Competitive Edge: Global Experience for a Diverse Workplace event, co-organized by AFS together with the Institute of International Education, the European American Chamber of Commerce and the HR Certification Institute. 

Download the full report