Amanda Magnani is a multimedia journalist, student and life-long AFSer. Her work focuses on topics like migrations and refugees, as well as climate justice and how climate change affects people. 

It all started when she was just a curious eight-year-old, learning about the possibility of intercultural exchanges. Years later, she would be impressed by the volunteer-driven nature and history of AFS programs, which would be a turning point in her decision to study abroad. 

I think my AFS experience has had a very big impact on me personally and professionally. It has helped me experience different situations, and learn to empathize with differences. It was a very good reminder that I don’t know everything and that I need to recognize my own privileges,” Amanda shared.

Amanda with her host family Donno (parents Stefano and Daniela, and siblings Chiara, Elia, Noemi, and Marco) in 2011 and 2022

Currently doing her Masters program in the Czech Republic, Amanda originally comes from Brazil. She studied abroad with AFS in 2011, when she went on a high school exchange to Switzerland. Her AFS exchange was a truly transformative experience, and Amanda continued volunteering for AFS in Brazil for years after her program completed. 

The experience helped her create friendships around the world, and enabled her to have another family in Switzerland with whom she is still in touch more than 10 years after they hosted her in their home. 

Looking back on what her AFS experience taught her, Amanda singles out two important things: learning to be open-minded and to suspend judgment in the face of differences. She described:

“The thing that I remember from my AFS orientations was the idea to stop and think before I judge something or even before I talk about a situation. I try to disconnect what I saw and heard from my interpretation. My exchange did a really good job in preparing me to think about things with an open eye, to look at cultural differences not as something that is meant to hurt others. This is also reflected in my approach to journalism, helping me better understand, fact-check and be transparent in my work.”


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Her various experiences of studying and traveling abroad have been eye-opening for Amanda, making her realize the difficulties of going through culture shock and encountering differences. When the war in Ukraine broke out, Amanda rushed to the border between Slovakia and Ukraine to do what she does best.

“Cultural shock hurts a lot. It hurts when you go abroad by choice, and you are receiving all the support as an exchange student. But for most people who migrate, and especially for refugees, this is not the case. They can’t just go back when they want to. I felt compelled to listen to their stories first and foremost. My goal is not to tell these stories because they’re not mine to tell, but to give a venue for these stories, to help these stories get told,” Amanda said.



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The stories Amanda helps get told paint a bleak picture of the dire humanitarian consequences that the refugees and local communities face. She also documents examples of courage and actions of people stepping up to do whatever is in their power to help.

Whether it is the topic of refugees, climate justice or anything else, I am dedicated to looking for solutions and things that are being done to improve the situation. I always keep a critical eye, because the narratives are complex. There are problems, but solutions are also happening,” Amanda concluded.

Read Amanda’s photo journalistic reports here, and find out more about her work here.

To become an AFS exchange student, host family or volunteer, please contact AFS in the country where you live.