Group Programs FAQ

Anytime! Well, almost anytime. It depends on the types of activities you want to pursue, holiday schedules in your host country, and other similar factors. Basically, if the time period you choose can be accommodated by AFS staff and volunteers, it's a go!

Program minimums vary by destination. Group Leaders that recruit to a preset point above the minimum may bring a second adult at no cost. Group Leaders that recruit less than the minimum will still be able to take their group, but there will be additional fees charged to the Group Leader based on the final number of participants.

Groups with 20 or more participants may need to pay a premium for the cost of larger vans and/or additional small vans. To avoid additional fees, the group can be divided into two groups and be placed in communities close to each other.

Sure! As long as the Group Leader is willing to facilitate their applications, interviews, and preparations, there is no requirement that the group members be from the same school. Also, two (or more) teachers from different schools can combine efforts to organize a joint AFS program and travel together!

Group Leaders must be at least 22 years old. Some special consideration may be given to an AFS Returnee with demonstrated experience in leadership, but such exceptions must be approved on a case-by-case basis by AFS and by the parents of the group participants.

Our group programs are great opportunities for teachers looking to give their students an experience that goes beyond the typical class tour. Likewise, because we are able to tailor our group programs to the interests of the group, we also encourage groups that aren’t affiliated with the school. For example, a church youth group might travel to Turkey to study comparative religions. A Girl Scouts group might want to participate in a community service activity in Kenya. The local soccer club could travel to Brazil for a soccer camp experience. The opportunities and possibilities are numerous and we’re happy to explore most any of them!

At AFS, we believe that everyone benefits from experiencing other cultures and connecting on a personal level with the people and places of our world. We work closely with you to prepare a customized program that will meet the needs of your group. In general, there are a few basic attributes that will help any participant make the most of an AFS group program:

  • An interest in learning or improving foreign language skills
  • Maturity and a cooperative nature
  • Ready to be away from home
  • An open attitude, especially to trying new foods and new ways of doing things
  • Complete an AFS Group Leader application. Since this program involves the supervision and care of young people, AFS requires Group Leaders to complete an application that helps AFS to confirm that the Group Leader is able to provide the support and guidance required while traveling overseas.
  • Recruit a minimum number of participants as established in the Participation Agreement. In order to accompany your group at no cost to you, you will be required to recruit the minimum number of participants as established by AFS.
  • Ensure on-time application completion. Each participant must complete an application that provides AFS with information required for participation, including medical information, parental consent, etc. The Group Leader is expected to work with participants and their parents to secure the applications and documents in a timely manner.
  • Organize student/parent interviews. To ensure that participants and their parent(s)/guardian(s) are properly informed and prepared for their AFS experience, Group Leaders must conduct an interview with each participant and their parent(s)/guardian(s). In turn, an interview form must be completed for each participant.
  • Facilitate Fund Raising if Required or Desired. The Group Leader is responsible for working with their group members and their parent(s)/guardian(s) to fund their AFS program fees. While AFS does not provide scholarships for group programs, we can help with tips and best practices on community fundraising efforts used by previous Group Leaders and participants.
  • Prepare students for intercultural program experience Much like the interview, Group Leaders should meet again with group members and their parent(s)/guardian(s) to provide tips and useful information on preparing for their journey, adapting to another culture and language, etc. AFS will provide tools for conducting these informative (and fun) sessions!
  • Participate fully in the program. While AFS staff and volunteers in the host country will facilitate your AFS experience, they will also rely on the Group Leader's participation and assistance in managing the group. Group Leaders work in partnership with AFS to ensure that the group has a safe, educational, and memorable experience.
  • Work with AFS staff and volunteers in cooperatively resolving any problems that may arise. While the Group Leader has the primary responsibility for recruiting and preparing participants, upon arrival in the hosting country, local AFS staff and volunteers will assume the primary responsibility for managing your group but, of course, will rely on their partnership with you to resolve any problems that may occur.

Your group will be hosted by an AFS "chapter" in a specific community. While in the host community, all members of your group will stay with volunteer host families. While on excursions and other activities, your group may stay in a dorm, hostel, or hotel.

All meals are included in the program fee. Group members will be able to have their laundry done while with their host families.

It's very likely that there will be children in the host family home, however, a few families that do not have children may also host, and some host families will have childen of a dissimilar age. The programs are usually based in schools, so group members will all have lots of interaction with other people from their age group.

Participants will walk and/or use public transportation in a similar fashion to local teens. Local AFS volunteers will accompany group members until they become familiar with the way. In some cases, AFS chapters will hire a small bus to pick up and drop off students if the distances are not easily walkable. Students travel by hired bus for their cultural excursions.

Couples are frequently assigned the same home-stay, but should be prepared to be flexible in case they are placed in different families.

Not at all. It's practically impossible to predict changes to airfares. They can go up, or they can go down. What does stay fairly constant is the base fare - the portion of the fare that's established by the airlines. (This is what we include in the AFS program fee.) The portion of the fare that fluctuates the most includes the taxes, airport fees, and fuel surcharges. Thus, we don't include these fees in your AFS program fee.

When you are ready to book your tickets, we will give you the current rate of taxes and surcharges for that day and, once we collect the fees from you, we will lock in those rates by purchasing your tickets.

Of course, not knowing what the fees might be will make it difficult to plan, as your group members, parents, and others helping with the finances of the trip need to know. Don't worry. We will give you a reliable estimate that you can work with in fundraising and planning.

Don't worry. We're not planning to take your breath away through sticker shock! Because we are offering a program tailored to the interests of your group, the costs will vary based on your choices. We are certain that you will find our programs to be generally less expensive than the programs offered by other leading organizations. On average, some programs start at $2,300 per participant. For most programs, we've provided an estimate. In cases where we haven't provided an estimate, it's generally because frequent currency fluctuations for that destination can result in a misleading estimate.

Once you fill out our "Get Started" form, we promise to give you a quick estimate for your program! We'll also let you know which activities cost more so that you can make easy decisions on how to lower the cost of your program.

AFS encourages each group leader to work with their school, community, and local AFS volunteer organization to consider fund raising options. Many groups have been quite successful at the local level. Due to the relative pricing model for these programs, no AFS discounts or scholarships from the national office are available.

  • Fees are paid in four incremental payments. The first payment is a 30% down payment.
  • An additional payment of 30% is due one month later.
  • An additional payment of 30% is due two months later.
  • The remaining 10% is due three months later.
  • Payment of additional air travel fees and taxes will be due at the time of booking flights in order to secure the best fare.

Generally, for a group planning to travel during the summer months, confirming the program eight months prior to departure helps to ensure that the hosting country has sufficient time to plan the program. Of course, there are always exceptions and our ability to accommodate late requests will depend on the content of the program and the hosting country’s ability to accommodate. For many groups, the students need sufficient time for fundraising and, as such, we recommend that group leaders start planning as soon as school starts in the fall. As a general rule, we can most easily accommodate groups that are confirmed at least 5 months prior to departure.

AFS will assign an experienced and qualified backup Group Leader to accompany the group. The choice of the Group Leader is at the discretion of AFS USA.

  • Obtaining a valid passport
  • Immunizations
  • Meals or snacks at the airports
  • Spending money

We're not just an "operator" that organizes and then sub-contracts activities to other companies and organizations. AFS is one of the world's largest mission-driven, volunteer-based organizations dedicated to providing people with life-changing intercultural learning experiences.

With AFS, you won't arrive at your destination to be greeted by a tour company. Instead, you will find yourself among AFS volunteers, people who have participated in AFS programs either as host families or as exchange students themselves (and often in the USA). They are dedicated to sharing their countries and their cultures with their AFS visitors in a manner that makes them feel at home. They provide a special knowledge of world cultures and help AFS to ensure that all participants are given quality experiences that are fun, safe, and educational.

We don't mean to brag, but we think you would be hard pressed to find a group of enthusiastic and dedicated people like the worldwide network of AFS volunteers!