The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or cut short intercultural learning for over 5 million study abroad participants and international students. The already challenging process of returning home after an international experience has been made even more difficult under these unprecedented conditions. 

Educators around the world are scrambling to support these students’ early return and help them adjust to re-entry under extremely stressful circumstances. They’re also eager to provide participants with opportunities for continued learning and connection during and after COVID-19. This is especially true for international students who plan to come back to campus but aren’t yet sure when that will be.

That is why earlier this month, the AFS Center for Intercultural Learning and Global Competence Education held a Re-entry in Crisis event for hundreds of international educators.

Three key strategies emerged from the research-backed best practices, tools and expert insights on supporting international students shared in the webinar:


Students are experiencing the “fight, flight, freeze” response in this crisis. Educators should employ brain-based strategies like demonstrating and encouraging appreciation, and story-telling that get the neocortex, the part of the brain that does our best thinking —problem-solving, logic, curiosity, and empathy, for optimal learning and collaboration across differences— back online. 


Even though in-person events are not possible right now, it’s crucial to gather students online to offer well-designed, intentional spaces for structured debriefing of their experiences. Educators first need to help students identify and process their emotions before leading them to analyze and understand what skills they have gained from their experiences, whether planned or otherwise. These sessions are also important opportunities for students to build resilience skills and stay connected with a global community of peers during the crisis.


For its 7,000+ repatriated students during COVID-19, AFS launched a practical online education tool that provides study abroad participants with a moderated platform to process their experiences, come together as a global community and continue their intercultural learning journeys. This special edition of the research-backed AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC) features an online forum that has seen more than 60,000 interactions in its first weeks of operation. It is now available for other educators and organizations to adapt to their needs. 


  • WATCH & LEARN: To view the Re-entry in Crisis webinar recording or download Re-entry in Crisis resources so you can implement these strategies, contact [email protected]
  • LET US HELP YOU: If you or your institution is interested in having the AFS Center for Intercultural Learning and Global Competence Education design and facilitate an online Re-entry in Crisis workshop  for your students, or train the trainers online re-entry session, contact [email protected]
  • USE OUR TOOLS: For a Global Competence Certificate demonstration and more information on how your institution can take part in this and other online intercultural learning programs, contact [email protected]
  • STAY CONNECTED: Visit to stay informed about upcoming webinars from the AFS Center for Intercultural Learning and Global Competence Education.

Read this article in Spanish, translated by our friends at Travolucion.