AFS helps thousands of students continue building global competence using a new online education platform


Over 4,000 high school students in 46 countries whose study abroad programs were abruptly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing their international experience online and making new connections across borders. 

Early in March, some 7,000 students had to end their AFS study abroad programs early. AFS, a leading international education organization, rapidly reconfigured and deployed a virtual learning platform to provide those thousands of young  people with ongoing support, community and learning during the crisis. 

Nothing can ever replace the life-changing experience of living with a host family and attending school in a different country. But the crisis also presents an opportunity to help young people learn from a moment of extraordinary shared global interconnectedness,” said Melissa Liles, Chief Global Engagement Officer of AFS Intercultural Programs. “We can help our students understand in realtime what it means to be a responsible citizen of the world.” 

The practical, youth-friendly online tool, a special edition of the AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC), provides AFS study abroad studentswhether they have returned to their home countries early or remain in their host communitywith a moderated educational platform to process their experiences, come together as a global community of young people and continue their intercultural learning journeys. The new GCC forum has seen more than 60,000 interactions in its first weeks of operation. So far, 4,000+ students are using the tool, which AFS made available to them at no cost, with more enrolling each week. 

The program includes content on coping during crisis, navigating ambiguity, developing resilience, being flexible, and connecting across differences. This core curriculum helps students become active global citizens. 

Students using the platform are saying that, while at first they were sad and shocked that their program had to end, they can’t believe that through this tool they get to connect with peers around the world who had a shared experience. They’re gaining an immense international network in addition to global skills,” said Linda Stuart, Head of the Global Competence Certificate at AFS.

We are proud to provide our students with continued meaningful learning through this online blended program. Every student should  be able to have access to global learning opportunities.” urged Daniel Obst, President & CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. “This crisis highlights, in ways that normal circumstances do not, how intertwined our futures and fates are. Becoming an active global citizen is no longer a nice-to-have concept; it’s an urgent need. Young people understand this better than most.”  

The research-backed AFS Global Competence Certificate has been used by more than 10,000 university, intern and language abroad students in 50 countries to help them develop their intercultural competence and global skills before, during and after their international programs. 

Prior to the crisis, AFS had already piloted a version of the Global Competence Certificate for students to develop their intercultural capabilities without studying abroad, and is ready to expand this offering to more learners now. Liles adds, “As many colleges and universities face the possibility of moving all learning online this fall, we’ve had partners reach out to ask if they can use the non-mobility program as soon as possible. They see the need for helping students learn global skills as being even greater than before.”

For more about the AFS Global Competence Certificate, visit afs.org/certificate or contact Linda Stuart. For press inquiries, contact Milena Miladinovic.