Since March, when COVID-19 forced AFS to suspend study abroad programs, many AFSers have been wondering if and when our exchange programs will resume. Today, we are able to announce that we affirm our commitment to resume programming for the second half of 2020 for several locations and where feasible, though things may look a bit different.
Planning for Safety, Minimizing Disruption
As a global network of organizations, AFS is actively re-assessing conditions on a country-by-country basis. Some countries may require a later program start date than originally planned. Moreover, either because of safety restrictions or a lingering economic impact, we may not be able to run our programs in all countries. If planned abroad experiences must change – and we hope very few will – we will let our participants know as soon as we are able. We will do all we can to minimize the disruption.
The safety and well-being of our participants remain our number one priority. We are closely monitoring health and travel recommendations from authorities, as well as receiving information from our robust, on-the-ground volunteer network. While we cannot predict precisely what will happen before our programs are set to begin, we pledge to be nimble and responsive to circumstances as they change.
Enhancing Student Learning and the Impact of Our Exchange Programs
For 2020 and beyond, we will be launching an innovative, impact-driven new AFS program experience that builds on the classic AFS exchange program generations of young people have known and loved. This exciting new program experience is the culmination of a multi-year project undertaken by AFS, in partnership with leading global design firm IDEO and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS). This will ensure our programs offer not only the best participant experience, but also catalyze the next generation of leaders who will be ready to pursue and deliver on our mission of active global citizenship.
Some of the new program features include a focus on helping students measure and articulate the profound personal growth they experience on our programs, providing students with social impact skills and instilling in them the confidence to be a leader and changemaker in their local community and the world, and connecting and building community across the amazing global cohort to amplify their individual and collective impact. These features will be introduced in a new, three-week blended learning program that students will complete before program departure, preparing them to fully seize the potential of the transformational experience ahead of them. Participants will continue to hone these skills throughout their program abroad, supported by highly trained AFS volunteers and staff.
Reinforcing Our Commitment to Active Global Citizenship
With more than 70 years of experience in study abroad and cultural exchange, AFS remains steadfast in our dedication to our mission of intercultural learning. And while study abroad programs may be delayed, disrupted, or changed in the months ahead, we are developing new ways of working, in partnership with our 50,000 volunteers, to provide intercultural learning through virtual and blended learning, and new program opportunities for our participants.
In uncertain times especially, cultural exchange must continue and will. AFS is ever prepared to educate more young people to become global citizens with personal development and a passion for making a difference that is crucial in times like these.
For more information about studying abroad with AFS, or if you are interested in hosting an AFS exchange student, please contact the AFS organization in your country.