You’ve probably already thought a lot about where you’d like to study abroad and what kinds of amazing food you’ll get to eat while being there. But there’s so much more to the experience: Living and studying abroad will prepare you for life in ways that no other opportunity can. An AFS study abroad program isn’t just a trip to a foreign country—it’s a life-enriching experience that will help you learn about yourself and the world we live in.
Helpful hint: Read what other AFS students have said about why they decided to study abroad. Learn more about the Benefits of Study Abroad. Don't forget that you can reach out to the AFS community at Ask an AFSer on Facebook, or by connecting with a Program Advisor to discuss your options.
We recommend that you give yourself 2-3 weeks to complete your application, but it's really up to you as to how quickly the pieces can be finished. We have received applications in less than 48 hours from students responding to an application deadline – but generally, you'll probably want a little more time.
In addition to the parts of the application that you and your parents complete, you will also need a visit to your doctor to have the medical form completed, a transcript form to be completed by a school official, a letter of recommendation for academic programs, and an in-home interview with a local AFS Volunteer. The interview, in addition to being part of your application to be sent abroad, is also a great time to learn more about what to expect from the months leading up to your program, as well as what to expect while on program itself. Bring your own set of questions!
AFS begins accepting applications on a rolling basis (meaning first come, first served) for programs roughly one year before the program departure, so it's a good idea to plan ahead.
Your AFS tuition is comprehensive. It includes your round trip international airfare, placement with a carefully screened volunteer host family and school (or community service project), orientations before and during your program, comprehensive secondary medical insurance, visa support and assistance, access to the entire AFS staff and volunteer support network, and 24 hour emergency assistance should anything come up while you're on program.
In addition to your program tuition, you'll need to cover the application fee ($75), the domestic travel to your international departure city (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., or Miami – depending on your host country), your visa and passport fees, plus spending money while you're on program. Most students find that $100-$300 per month is sufficient while abroad.
There definitely are. Not only does AFS offer need and merit based scholarships through our Global Leaders Scholarship, but we also have a ton of great fundraising resources and advice from past program participants to share with you. Beyond what AFS can do to help support your dream of going on a program, there are many community organizations that will help a good cause (like your AFS experience), and we'll give you tips on getting their support. Garage sales, car washes, and letters asking for sponsors are just a few strategies that work. Check out the Fundraising section of our website, where you can download a comprehensive guide, or sign up for an interactive fundraising conference call to learn even more fundraising tips and start a plan.
Read more about covering your AFS tuition.
Maybe, but we cannot guarantee it. The amount and type of credit you receive is determined by your school here in the U.S. It's important to talk with your teachers and guidance counselor before you depart to arrange your schedule. In most cases, AFS Participants have received language, history, or social studies credits.
When preparing to talk to your school about your upcoming program, make sure to check out how to Get Academic Credit for your AFS Experience as well as our helpful Host School Information Sheets, which will give you and your US school an idea of the types of classes and school structure you'll be placed in.
Helpful hint: Make sure to keep a copy of any formal grades or transcripts you receive from your host school – sometimes it's even helpful to keep final projects or papers. It is your responsibility to obtain any written information about your attendance and grades in your host school before you return home. AFS cannot assist you with course or grade information after you complete the program.
Many AFS participants begin the program with little or no experience in the language of their host country but learn to communicate at a basic level very soon. There is no better way to learn a language than by speaking it 24/7! Do your best to communicate, even if you are using basic words and phrases. You'll get better each day and by the end of your semester or year abroad you'll likely be fluent in the host country's language. There are also AFS programs that offer language instruction to start you off on the right foot.
That said, some programs do have a language requirement and we always encourage you to get started learning your future host country's language as soon as possible.
Helpful hint: Get creative and involve your friends and family before you leave in the process to really prepare for your program! Make flashcards, watch movies in the language, or even use sticky notes around the house to learn basic vocabulary.
It's easy to be excited about a certain town or region – we know we feel this way too – but we aren't able to request certain geographic locations within your host country. That said, although AFS programs focus on cultural immersion and not travel, you will get a chance to see many other parts of your host country through AFS orientations, events, and travel with your school or host family.
Absolutely, you have many options! Our Gap Programs let you experience a new culture by volunteering with a community service organization handpicked with your interests and goals in mind. Additionally, some High School Programs are open to older students and graduates (though be prepared to sign an Academic Commitment Statement). We also offer a University Study Program in Panama that combines coursework with unique cultural programs. What's more, many of our Summer Programs are open to high school graduates and older students.
AFS has an extensive support network for you, your family in the US, and your host family abroad. There are AFS offices, staff, and experienced volunteers in our host countries to support you during your experience – and you'll have a contact in our office in the US as well.
Within the AFS support network, there are many layers of support – beginning with your host family. In addition to your host family, you'll have an assigned AFS local volunteer liaison who is trained in providing support to a student. Additionally, AFS has paid Support Staff in each country office and an emergency Duty Officer system available through an emergency hotline after business hours. If you need us, we're here for you.
Read more about how AFS provides for your safety while abroad.
We wish we could give you an exact date, but it depends. Some students will hear about their placement soon after they are accepted into the program; some learn about their host community right before departure. However, most students learn of their placement about 1-2 months prior to departure. Keep in mind it varies for everyone – so as you're further in the application and acceptance process and start hearing other students talk about their placements, it's OK to not know yours yet. It's normal!
If you have placement restrictions listed in your application such as allergies to pets or to the environment, if you require access to religious services, or if you have any dietary restrictions (if you're a vegetarian, for example), the placement process will most likely take longer.
Helpful hint: Keep in mind that even when a great host family is identified for you, the placement won't be finalized until a host school placement or community service project is confirmed in writing as well. Both processes takes time, but know that we will get your host family contact information to you as soon as it is available!