More than 5,000 high school students from 50+ countries will have started their AFS exchange program by mid-October 2021. In addition, AFS virtual educational offers are on track to reach another 5,000 high school and university students, and educators. 

Kicking off a new school year for thousands of exchange students

AFS programs will run in countries where health and safety conditions allow and student visas are possible. Our Global Risk Management team is closely monitoring the continually changing situation on a daily basis, and they are in very close contact with our member organizations.

Of the more than 5,000 students who will go abroad on an AFS program this year, the largest number come from Italy, followed by Germany, Thailand, Argentina and Chile. The most popular destinations for study abroad among AFS students this year are the United States, followed by Italy, Canada, France and Denmark. AFS volunteers and staff worldwide are working hard to make exchange programs happen and remain as flexible as possible in changing health and travel conditions. 

It’s amazing to see so many young people back on AFS study abroad programs. I am moved by their eagerness to connect with the world and make a positive impact on their communities using the skills they will develop through AFS study abroad programs, like empathy, cross-cultural communication and social entrepreneurship,” said Efrem Fisher, Chief Programs Officer at AFS Intercultural Programs. “Our deepest gratitude goes to the volunteers, host families and schools who have once again shown their trust in AFS and who join us on this learning adventure every year.”

Photos are courtesy of AFS organizations in Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Mexico, Sweden, and the USA.

More than just travel: AFS programs are a learning opportunity

These young people will study abroad, learn global skills, practice social impact and return home to become active global citizens with the essential global skills they need to live, learn, work and volunteer to contribute to society and change the world.

Before, during and after their program, every AFS student benefits from a curriculum based on a proven educational methodology that AFS has developed over 75 years of intercultural learning. Studies show that AFS exchange students experience personal development, grow their intercultural competence, cross-cultural friendships and communication skills, at higher rates than students who never studied abroad.

Last year, AFS partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) to add new content that will help them become leaders in their local community and the world. Students traveling on AFS exchanges this year were enrolled in our online learning program so that they could connect with one another across countries; learn from experienced AFS volunteers; and develop skills in observation, cultural awareness and intercultural communication that will help them on their learning journey. Find out more about their first global meetup.

At the end of their AFS experience, every student experiences gains in social-emotional learning that empowers them to take action and make the world a better place. These skills are often referred to as “superpowers:” adaptability, critical thinking, self-awareness, empathy, communication, valuing differences, open-mindedness, global awareness, and change-making.

AFS expands impact and access by going beyond physical exchanges 

AFS virtual educational offers provide people with opportunities to develop skills required to collaborate effectively across differences. AFS partners with more than 30 academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, corporations and government agencies, including Education New Zealand, The Hormel Institute, Colombian ICETEX and The Cyril Taylor Charitable Foundation to impact thousands of students, teachers, and professionals each year through our digital education programs. Our Effect+, Global Up and Global You programs are on track to reach 5,000 participants in 2021, including high school and university students, teachers and other educators. Find out more about our new partnerships and expanded reach of virtual programs.

“Despite the pandemic and the dramatic reduction in travel, AFS was able to increase its impact and reach by scaling up virtual offers, developing new partnerships and strengthening the educational foundations of all our programs,” said Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. “Given the increasing polarization around the world, it’s even more important to provide young people with intercultural learning opportunities so that they can make the world a more just and peaceful place.

In 2022, AFS expects a significant increase in the number of participants on both in-person and virtual programs. The organization will also host the 27th session of the Youth Assembly in New York City, USA to enhance the participation of youth in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

AFS has operations in 50+ countries worldwide. Contact us in the country where you live to find out more about our programs at