AFS Intercultural Programs is delighted to launch a new program to foster cross-cultural connections and global competence—the AFS Global Up Americas virtual exchange program supported by the Stevens Initiative. Over the course of 2023 to 2025, more than 3,000 students will receive full scholarships to participate in an immersive virtual exchange between the United States, Colombia, Mexico and other countries in the Americas. Additionally, the program will empower 120 dedicated teachers with the tools and expertise to foster, sustain, and expand virtual exchange and intercultural education.

Harnessing the power of AFS’s acclaimed Global Competence Certificate (GCC), participants in AFS Global Up Americas, both students and educators, will cultivate the vital global competence required to collaborate and communicate across differences. These exchanges will serve as a conduit for widening perspectives, nurturing personal bonds, and engendering a profound understanding of each other’s cultures. The Global Up Americas initiative will deliver on three key goals:

  • Identify, train, and develop teachers to be impactful and effective intercultural facilitators
  • Equip youth with critical intercultural skills, experience, and personal growth
  • Catalyze all to be active global citizens ready to take action locally and globally

The successful partnership between AFS and the Stevens Initiative began in 2021, when a study, titled “AFS Global You Virtual Exchange Impact Study,” found that virtual exchanges have a meaningful immediate impact on the development of global competence among high-school aged youth around the world. Since April 2023, AFS has been conducting research on the effectiveness of virtual exchanges in developing global competence among 250 students from Australia, India, Indonesia and China, also supported by a grant from the Stevens Initiative.

Christine Shiau, Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative, reaffirmed the significance of this funding, stating,The Stevens Initiative envisions a day where every young person can say that virtual exchange empowered them to learn and connect with peers from around the world. This can only be possible with the support of the dedicated virtual exchange providers, strategic partners, and education and exchange leaders who have joined our global movement. The Stevens Initiative’s collaboration with AFS represents a pivotal moment for the future of virtual exchange, and we are proud to work alongside them as they work on the ground to make this vision possible in the years ahead.”

In the words of Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs, “AFS is proud to continue our partnership with the Stevens Initiative to bring virtual exchange programs to more young people and educators worldwide. Virtual exchanges are crucial to developing more active global citizens who have the knowledge, skills and values they need to make a positive impact in the world.”

Within AFS Global Up Americas, the teacher training begins in the fall of 2023, followed by the virtual exchange for high school students from Colombia, Mexico, Canada and the United States in the spring of 2024. Through self-paced online activities and live group facilitated dialogue sessions, students will develop skills like collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, cross-cultural communication, and empathy; and learn about United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The program will be conducted in Spanish and English, over the course of five weeks with multiple cohorts and multiple start dates.

For more information and to join this initiative, please contact

Read more about how the Stevens Initiative Accelerates Global Movement for Virtual Exchange.

The Stevens Initiative is an international leader in virtual exchange, which brings young people from diverse places together to collaborate and connect through everyday technology. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative invests in virtual exchange programs; shares research, resources, and promising practices to improve impact; and advocates for broader adoption. Learn more:

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action. Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.