AFS Intercultural Programs

Community Subscriber
Berkeley, CA
School-Aged, Teens, Young Adults
rcyphers [at]

AFS-USA is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS Organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board.

We’ve been exchanging students throughout the world for more than 65 years. That’s six decades of history and experience in international education with an exemplary record of safety, security, and service to students, parents, and educators.

AFS-USA MissionAFS-USA works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership.

Parent Reviews

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I have sent my sons abroad with AFS and in both cases it was a great experience. You can sign up on their website -  - to get some preliminary information (sign up doesn't bound you to go abroad, just let's you get specific info about the various programs they offer). AFS will connect you with students who have recently returned from the country you're interested in so that your son can call and ask them any questions directly.  I highly recommend their programs both for studying abroad and for hosting an exchange student here, which is also a great experience.

I have had experience with AFS summer program in France and can recommend it.  You can see all their programs at:

As a volunteer for AFS and as a past and future host family - we can't wait to meet our student from Chile this coming August!! - I’d like to encourage our Berkeley High community to consider hosting in the 2017-18 school year. Hosting a student is an amazing and worthwhile experience. I strongly believe in this organization’s mission of peace through intercultural understanding and think it’s especially important now, and especially here where we celebrate our diversity as a core value of our community. If you want to know more, contact me or go to, or call our local staff person, Veronica Buxton at 650 499 9025, vbuxton [at]
AFS exchange students attend the local high school and can share a bedroom with a host sibling. A few more host families are needed in the East Bay - Berkeley and Oakland in particular.  Hope you will consider this life-enriching opportunity for your teen!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2013

My son is interested in participating in a year long study abroad program 2014-15, when he is a sophomore (he's one of those older kids in class with a fall birthday). I myself was an exchange student when I was 16 and it was an amazing experience for me, so I'm all for it. I would love to hear recent experiences with AFS, the program I used back then, to see if its still a respected organization. Thanks! Study abroad

My son went to Italy with AFS two years ago for spring semester of his sophomore year. He lived with a wonderful family and came home fluent in Italian. AFS was well organized and provided good support . I recommend it highly! Berkeley Mama

My son went to France a couple of years ago with AFS and we are currently hosting an AFS student from Norway - both have been fantastic experiences for all involved and I would highly recommend AFS as an organization. Michelle B.

Thanks all for feedback on AFS. I was an AFS exchange student in 1986 and my current 12 year old is already look forward to that opportunity. My grandparents hosted an AFS student in the 60's so I'm excited about chance to make it a 3 generation thing! AFSer

April 2012

Re: Gap Year Curveball

I'm sorry your daughter threw you a curve ball. Here's an idea - AFS (American Field Service). When I was 17 I had a great year in Australia as an exchange student with AFS. I wish I could do it again! It might be an option for your daughter. I checked with a Bay Area AFS employee to see what was available for next year and she said: ''There are a couple of programs still open for Gap Year next year: Community Service Semester and Year Programs and High School Programs. There is still room in the year program to Paraguay for community service, for instance. The application deadlines are approaching quickly. Check the web-site or contact me for more information.'' San Francisco Bay Team AFS-USA ahenry [at] Ph. 847-772-3125 Mary, AFS returnee, Wisconsin to Australia

Oct 2011

Re: High School Study Abroad Programs

I hope your daughter has an idea WHY she wants to be an exchange student. Is it to travel? See other countries? Learn a different way of life or another language? Is living with another family and going to school some more the best way to do what she wants? If she'll be 18, would she prefer to be an au pair with a family and get paid, or a volunteer with a conservation program abroad?

AFS is a very reputable student exchange program. I've known students, from the U.S. and from other countries, who've had good experiences and others who've had bad experiences-- it can be a matter of temperament, ''fit'' with the family, or (lack of) support at the school (like the bright European student put in vocational classes in the U.S. instead of with the college-bound students). Your student might end up in a family with no other teens, or the family might live in an isolated rural area. Or the family may have tensions that have nothing to do with the student but make her very uncomfortable.

AFS doesn't let you pick the language or country you want, only the hemisphere, which can be a blessing in disguise, according to students I've known who've ended up in Brazil and Italy. This is my two cents.

Feb 2007

Re: Summer abroad recommendation for 15-year-old

AFS stands for the American Field Service. My parents were very involved with AFS in Southern California thirty years ago. We made lifelong friends with families in England, Austria, Germany, Italy and Belgium because of AFS.

AFS sends students for either a summer or a school year. Unless they've changed things, they do NOT take a student's language preference into account. My brothers both studied German, and spent a year in Italy and Flemish- speaking Belgium, respectively. But it opened worlds to them. One brother came back to major in Engineering and Italian.

Under the best circumstance, AFS interviews both the host families and the students, and matches them pretty well. The student may share a bedroom with a child of the same gender, and goes to school in a school where there is an AFS Club so that they meet other interesting students. The local AFS organization is supposed to organize activities and weekends away in other communities, to see more of the country.

In the worst situation, the student finds themself in a family with no experience with teens, no teen children, no interests in common, and placed in low level classes at school with no support at all. If it's not a good match, the local AFS club is supposed to help them find another home.

Two of my family's AFS students have stayed members of our family. One would have been much happier in another family, and bailed halfway through the year. A friend of mine spent her AFS summer on an island in Sweden on a farm with no one but the family to talk with. Not so great. good luck

AFS stands for American Field Service, and was actually started 90 years ago by volunteer WWI ambulance drivers. Like the Experiment in International Living it is an old and established program which had the mission of encouraging understanding between people of different cultures with the goal of making the world a better and safer place. I've included the URL below, I have no idea about how the current programs are administered, or how students are selected.

Like others who have posted here, I was an AFS student in Switzerland in the Summer of 1974. My sister went to Finland in Summer 1970. We both had wonderful experiences both with our student groups and host families. It would seem there is more control now over where you go and whether you speak the language. In the '70s you agreed to go wherever they sent you.

AFS, which stands for Amercian Fields Service, began providing opportunities for high school kids to experience other cultures after WW II in the hopes that increasing cultural understanding would promote peace. The organization is extremely well organized and offers programs in 50 different countries. The Bay Area has a very active chapter. I spent my junior year in Brazil through AFS (many years ago) and it was a life-changing experience! I hope that my now 11-year old will have a similar opportunity in a few years. Check out their website