While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make a profound impact on all aspects of life around the world, AFS is excited to announce that our 2020 study abroad programs are restarting.
Our study abroad landscape for 2020
Currently, we have more than 500 high school students beginning their programs in more than 20 countries. The safety and well-being of our participants continues to be our number one priority, as it has been for the last 70 years.
Because of this, no country is allowed to host AFS participants unless they meet our Global Risk Management Team’s robust health and safety criteria. AFS programs will run in countries where health and safety conditions allow, and student visas are possible. Our experienced staff, trained local volunteers, and dedicated host families are closely monitoring conditions for programs on a country-by-country basis, and working to ensure that every AFSer stays safe while on their program.
After careful assessment, we have decided to restart AFS exchange programs in the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, and 14 states in the USA.
We expect more countries to be able to begin hosting AFS participants later in September, October and November. Programs are expected to return to nearly all AFS destinations in 2021.
We are excited to share that students who travel with AFS in 2020 will have the option to receive a certificate in social impact upon completion of the Active Global Citizenship curriculum, designed by the University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn) Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS). In addition to the regular learning and support of all AFS study abroad programs, participants will now get to experience a new blended learning program that combines online and in-person educational experiences. With AFS, students will gain what we like to call “superpowers” – skills that will help them become leaders in their local community and the world.
Providing flexibility: New program options
Studying abroad during a time of uncertainty may not be the best option for some students and their families. For those who cannot or do not want to travel this year but who are eager to participate in an exchange program, AFS is launching new program formats and opportunities:
- Short programs: In addition to our traditional year-abroad, We are now offering short-term programs called AFS Academies, which are focused on human rights, STEM, language and culture, and sustainability, designed to empower young people to engage in hands-on activities and learn skills vital to becoming global citizens.
- Virtual exchanges: You don’t need to travel to meet young people from other countries in a meaningful way. AFS Global You Adventurer is a one-of-a-kind online program where young people learn about connecting with people across cultures and become part of a global community. Participants also earn our award-winning AFS Global Competence Certificate, which can boost their resume as they prepare for University and beyond.
Applications for all programs starting in 2021 are also open, and our staff and volunteers worldwide are eager to meet our future participants.
AFS response to Covid-19 so far
When the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic, AFS was forced to end all study abroad programs, and the future of study abroad remained uncertain.
Our staff and volunteers in 60 countries worked around the clock to reunite close to 7,000 high school students with their families in their home countries in record time. “I am totally satisfied with AFS’s overall decision in response to the whole COVID-19 situation. I really appreciate the support and help that AFS provided during the whole exchange year. AFS handled this situation so efficiently and took care of all the students,” said one of the exchange program participants whose program was cut short due to the pandemic.
For students who could not immediately return to their home countries, our dedicated staff, host families and volunteers cared for them until travel back became possible (in some cases, for many months).
AFS quickly launched a special online intercultural learning program, based on our AFS Global Competence Certificate to provide virtual re-entry sessions to help students cope and make meaning of the unprecedented situation they were living. It included topics such as coping during a crisis, navigating ambiguity, developing resilience, flexibility and more. 5,862 students worldwide attended more than 650 live sessions delivered in 5 languages, had tens of thousands of interactions in the online forum and were supported by 77 volunteer facilitators from 33 countries. This AFS program is now shortlisted for the prestigious PIEoneer of the Year Award, and has been implemented by organizations like IIE, Cultural Vistas, the Ministry of Education in Malaysia and Education New Zealand.