What a difference a year makes.
2021, like the year before it, was heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In-person study abroad and intercultural exchange were challenged by health concerns, travel restrictions, and the economic consequences of the pandemic.
But, with resilience, innovation, and trust in our 75 years of experience in intercultural exchange, 2021 was a year of optimism and action at AFS.
We learned three key things in 2021:
- In-person study abroad and virtual exchange are a perfect mix for delivering intercultural education worldwide. Nothing can replace the power of a young person connecting with a host family and local community, learning first-hand about their role in making the world a better place. But these programs are often not available to all who want and need them, and that’s why virtual exchange is so important to expanding access to intercultural learning. Innovation and flexibility must drive intercultural learning programs worldwide.
- AFS adds a global perspective to education, which far too often is missing. AFS puts learners at the center, guiding and supporting them as they reflect on their impact on the world around them, learn how to build bridges among cultures, and work together to create positive change. Participants in all types of AFS programs learn essential global skills they need to live, learn, and work to contribute to society and change the world—and study after study proves this impact.
- Young people are eager to have a platform for social impact and changemaking. That’s why AFS was proud to start hosting The Youth Assembly, taking over the operations of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation. This is a unique event with a global network of more than 20,000 alumni with a passion for making a difference. In the years to come, it will become a key ingredient in the lifelong AFS experience.
Throughout the year, we were inspired by the passion and commitment of our 50,000+ volunteers and staff to expand intercultural learning opportunities around the world; our amazing host families and schools who welcome young people into their homes, classrooms and communities; and the many program participants who are so eager to start their journey as active global citizens.
We express our sincere gratitude to all our strategic partners and donors for supporting our vision year after year. We believe this Annual Report demonstrates how we develop global citizens when we work together.
Amalie Ferdinand (AFS 1997)
Chair, Board of Trustees
AFS President & CEO