Almost exactly one year ago, thousands of AFS students suddenly learned that they would have to end their AFS experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While our Network has navigated many crises, this was the first time ever in our long history that we cancelled all of our programs everywhere to protect our participants. AFS staff and volunteers worked around the clock for weeks to make sure that each and every participant—almost 7,000—made it home safely.

One year later, we are so proud of our AFSers for their resilience, and grateful for your support, as we rebuild a better AFS together.

A look back to last year

Here’s what we have done over the past year, and how our students, families and volunteers have kept the AFS mission alive during this time of global crisis: 

A safe return to intercultural exchanges

Our exchanges are back across 50 countries in 2021, prioritizing our participants’ safety and well-being. Thanks to our robust support system, on-the-ground volunteer network, and agile country-by-country approach, over 2,000 students are now abroad and even more will join them soon. Find out more about AFS exchanges in 2021.

“From the get go, AFS staff and volunteers have done everything they can to make sure the journey is amazing; every advice and word of support have been very important for me throughout this experience,” says Marielis Peña, a student from Venezuela, currently studying abroad in Switzerland.


Creating new virtual learning opportunities

We quickly developed digital intercultural learning programs for thousands of students, teachers and volunteers. We partnered with renowned institutions like the University of Pennsylvania to shape curricula, governments like Education New Zealand rushed to adopt our programs, and companies like bp supported our online education for future STEM leaders. Thanks to our generous donors, we provided scholarships to many of these participants! Explore our virtual programs.

“My daughter started a few weeks ago with her AFS online program. She is connecting to peers from all over the world and learning that they share many of the same experiences no matter where they live. I believe that it also prepares them to take on a role as a global citizen,” said Knut Grabenkamp, parent of an AFS Global You Adventurer participant from Germany.


Keeping our volunteers strong

Volunteers have been the core of AFS for more than 100 years. We were amazed by their commitment and passion to identify new ways to supercharge the AFS mission, support participants and families, and connect across the world to bring positive change to their communities. Once again, the power of AFS volunteers transformed lives and shaped communities. Discover some of the impressive initiatives our volunteers took worldwide.

Sylva Choi, a teenager from Malaysia who participated in the AFS Global Ideathon organized by the volunteers said, “The whole idea of hundreds of people coming together for the same cause is incredible. It’s the joy of connecting with others. It’s just so cool.”



Last year was extremely difficult, and many challenges still lie ahead. But all of us are working each and every day to ensure that the AFS mission will thrive. Thank you for your continued support in these unpredictable times.

Last Post: Remembering AFS Drivers

AFS Intercultural Programs was founded by volunteer ambulance drivers who lead a wartime humanitarian aid organization during the two World Wars and then transformed it into the intercultural learning organization we are today. Find out more about our history as we honor the AFS Drivers who passed away in the past year.

On behalf of all AFSers, we extend our deepest condolences to all members of the AFS community who have lost loved ones during this difficult time.