For 75 extraordinary years, AFS has embraced cultural understanding—celebrating differences and seeking the common ground that connects people from across the globe. And every connection … every friendship … and every new insight into humanity continues to move the world toward a more just and peaceful place—all thanks to AFSers like you. Quite simply: Your Story is Our Story!

With each new generation, we look to young people to carry the torch of our legacy even further. During our rich history, AFS-USA has empowered students to see their place in the world and unlocked their potential as leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers. With a vast global network of students, parents, families, staff members, and donors, the AFS Effect stretches across borders and divides. Here are a few of the many stories being shared with us throughout our 75th year. If you’d like to share your AFS story with us, please fill out this form.

Sheri Belton-Gonzalez

Host parent and volunteer

Sheri is a shining example of a global citizen with an enthusiasm for intercultural exchange. A study abroad student herself, she made it a point to leave her small town and fuel her passion for attaining fluency in Spanish. Now as a parent, she aims to create a multicultural home where her children can welcome and celebrate differences. And, as a bilingual educator and academic, she sees, studies, and embodies the lifelong benefits of international exchange and full immersion language learning.

Read more of Sheri’s story

Ambulances AFS

From the Archives

The American Field Service was founded after the outbreak of World War I. In France, 2,500 volunteers drove ambulances, transported supplies, and carried more than 500,000 wounded in battle. Between wars, AFS coordinated reunions and a series of academic fellowships for former AFS drivers. The AFS ambulance corps was reactivated in 1939 at the start of World War II. Then, in 1946, 250 American Field Service ambulance and camion drivers from both World Wars launched the secondary school student exchange program that is now referred to as AFS Intercultural Programs, Inc.

To this day, AFSers carry on the spirit of volunteerism and a concern for the entire global population that transcends borders and divisions, the same spirit which propelled the first AFS ambulance drivers into action.

Explore the History of AFS

Anita Danso

Exchange student from Ghana, 2002-03

“My AFS experience was certainly a life-changing one. Looking back 20 years, I can boldly say it is an experience that has molded me into the woman I am today. For me, I believe I didn’t just go through the year, I carried every bit of what I learned along with me and that is what made the difference. I made friends with whom I still keep in touch; my family was just a perfect fit for me and it was as though God had planned for me to have a permanent [second] family. The Myers have been a major part of my life and now my children’s too. I continue to enjoy the benefits of my experience even after 20 years and that is a real blessing to me.”

Anita recently returned to her host community to show her children the local high school and reunite with those she had connected with while on exchange!

AFS reunion 2022-1

Peter Robinson

Board member, host parent, and alumnus, U.S. to Austria 1972-73

In 1972, 22 students from America, New Zealand, and Argentina embarked on a then-experimental multinational trip to live and study in Austria through AFS. In September of 2022, 50 years after the trip that altered the course of their lives, nine of these students got together for a reunion in northeastern Pennsylvania. The weekend included hikes reminiscent of good times in Austria and Italy with friends and host siblings, as well as a video chat with their fellow alumni who could not be there in person. One member of the group, Peter, had this to say about the experience: “This 50th reunion overflowed with memories, love, laughter, conversation, hugs, delicious food, good cheer, good Austrian wine, and singing our favorite Austrian folk songs around a bonfire — just like we used to during the many times we would get together in Austria 50 years ago. The kinship and camaraderie of this group that exists to this day are truly precious. We’re hoping not to have to wait as long, and certainly not for any special number of years, for our next reunion.” AFS has brought together young people from across the globe to foster relationships that span decades and stories like Peter’s are a wonderful reminder of why our programs are so important.

The AFS Exchange Podcast

If you love a great AFS Story, check out The AFS Exchange Podcast! Episodes feature conversations with AFS-USA host families, students, volunteers, and educators. In each episode, we hear from our guests about how their lives have been impacted by AFS.

Listen Now

Rodney Warren: Host Parent and Volunteer

Jody Axinn

Volunteer and chaperone

After 15 years of volunteering with AFS in various capacities as the Sponsored Programs Cluster Coordinator, the Hosting Coordinator, and hosting 6 wonderful exchange students, I was selected as the Flight Chaperone to Indonesia. As a result, I had the good fortune of being able to live with my YES Program Alumni from 2009-2010, Indra Mardiansyah and his wife, Nuriyah, from Borneo, and to participate in Eid al-Adha with his extended family. While waiting for the imam, I bought all the kids in the family, all 30-something of them, ice cream from the ice cream bike man for about $7. That seemed to break the ice and suddenly, I went from foreigner to one of the family.  As such, we went from door to door delivering fresh beef with even the smallest of children proud to present their bags to the neighbors. Having American Family come visit them in their small village showed the love that lasted over a decade and counting.

Anne Ford: Host Parent and Volunteer

Carolyn Wilsing (Bosshardt)

Alumna and Volunteer

In the summer of 1954, Carolyn Wilsing (Bosshardt) traveled aboard the MS Seven Seas to start her AFS experience in Germany. While there, she created strong bonds with her host family and fellow AFSers, witnessed history in the still-divided city of Berlin, and became an ambassador for her nation. On her return, Carolyn gave an impassioned speech to her peers about the value of the program and encouraged them to seek similar experiences: “The purpose of the exchange program is to promote international goodwill and understanding. I cannot help but feel this program will have an effect on future relationships with foreign countries.”
After her exchange, Carolyn became an AFS Volunteer in a small town in Wisconsin and hosted multiple students. Her children, including Kim Thompson, who shared her story with AFS, went abroad to have their own life-changing adventures. Carolyn passed away in 1996, but her legacy lives on:

“Despite growing up in a small town, she opened our world and we began to have friends/family around the world. She did this for my father also who had never traveled before visiting his AFS Students. She left a legacy with us. I have continued to volunteer for AFS since I was 16, my family has hosted multiple times, and my daughters both went abroad.” – Kim Thompson, AFS Volunteer and Host Family
Achieving Life-long bond through Exchange Experience

Patricia Audrey Castromayor

ALEX Program Participant, 2022

“After 26 hours of flight from the Philippines, I finally arrived at my first home in the US-Manhattan, Kansas…I was hosted by a couple who not only showed me what American life is but also their own and being hosted together with another student is what makes my experience unique by having the privilege of sharing four cultures under one roof. In our home, we exchange stories about our countries’ culture, traditions, and cuisine: Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, and America. They were the ones who taught me that you don’t need to be related to each other just to consider them as your family; you just have to embrace them for what they are. What matters most is how you value your time together, creating memories as much as you can-let alone spending only a week with them with the uncertainty of seeing each other in a few years. The beauty of having a host family goes beyond anything anyone can think of. It is an experience that cultivates communication and connection on both sides. MHK was also the place where I met my international life-long friends. They never treated me differently because I was the only Filipina in this group of Indonesian girls. They showed me that despite our differences in belief, one can have a good friendship.”

Katherine (Katy) Basile

Alumnus, U.S. to Germany, 1975

“I made a dozen [stories] when I joined my AFS family in northern Germany for the Summer Program in 1975. My AFS family welcomed me and found ways to communicate even though I spoke no German! Since then we have visited each other, and two of my AFS “nieces” have come and studied while living with us. My AFs mother is an amazing woman who lived through WWII outside of Dresden, made her way when a young woman to West Germany, met her husband, and started a family in a small rural community on the border of Holland. Widowed a few years before hosting me, she modeled warmth, practicality, and love – and ambition for a successful family and for all of her kids to be successful in whatever way they chose. My AFS summer and my ongoing connection to my host family led me to a legal career with an international aspect and to being an AFS liaison and host mother (4 times with each of my own four children being host siblings and my husband as a host dad). Today I travel to Germany for my AFS mother’s funeral. Out of my deep sadness comes my gratefulness that she decided to host an AFS student in 1975 and introduced me to my AFs family who will be part of my family for the rest of my life!”

Shelley Quandt

AFS Alumna and 3rd generation host family

“My parents decided that we’d host a student from Fribourg, Switzerland in 1991-92. Antoine Eigenmann is my first host brother. We shared our Senior year of High School. He really was my brother. We had different friends and different interests. We bickered like a brother and sister do. It was perfect. We’ve kept in touch over the years. You know the drill – weddings, babies and the like. In 1992 I was a Freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In early October my parents told me that they had another AFS student moving in over the weekend. He was from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and needed a place to stay while a new host family was found. He just didn’t feel comfortable where he was and our liaison, Eunice, thought my parents might just be able to help. Sure enough, Francisco Barroso was here to stay and I had another brother! Like my dad and Kashu, I got to know Francisco over school breaks and was honored to attend his wedding a few years later. Finally, in 1994 it was my turn to study abroad. I spent the year in Aix-en-Provence, France through a partnership with UW-Madison. I spent my Christmas and February breaks in Fribourg, Switzerland with Antoine and his French-speaking family. They hosted me during my exchange. I had my host family after all!”