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.

Share your AFS Story!

How has AFS-USA changed your life? If you studied abroad, hosted a student, volunteered with AFS, or connected with us in some other way, please tell us what made your experience such a memorable part of your life!

Share your story

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!”


Tomaz Rossi

AFS Exchange Student, Brazil to U.S. 2008

“In 2008 I left Brazil to be an exchange student in Marquette, Michigan. It was an amazing experience and I learned so much, grew as a person, learned how to speak English, and made lifelong friends. I fell in love with the US and today I have the honor to call this place home. I am currently living in Omaha, Nebraska with my wife.”

Linda Knicely

AFS Volunteer and Host Family

“My first connection with AFS was as a charter member of our HS’s AFS club in 1976. In the 1980s and ’90s, my parents hosted two different exchange students. One of them – Jule, from Germany, was hosted by my parents in 1996. In the 25+ years since, she and her family have maintained a very close relationship with our family – both my parents, though my mom is now deceased, and especially my dad, who will turn 90 on his next birthday.

Most recently, five of our family members completed a 12-day lower Danube River cruise in September/October and then traveled by train to visit Jule and her family at the conclusion of our trip (my dad’s main motivating factor in going on the cruise, I think)…we were very grateful for the chance to nurture those bonds.

Altogether, from 1996 to the present, our two families have visited each other (either in Germany or Ohio/Florida) five different times (or best estimate). We are all so very important in each others’ lives.”

Eleta Jones 75th Anniversary Story Submission Photo

Eleta Jones

Alumnus, U.S. to Bangladesh (East Pakistan) 1964

“In 1964 (58 years ago), I was an AFS Exchange student to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). I lived with a wonderful family for the summer and formed a lasting bond with them. I am still in communication with my Bangladeshi family. The parents have passed away but my four Bangladeshi siblings and I are in contact with each other. I have been back to Bangladesh twice (bringing my husband and my two young adult children with me in 2005) and my husband and I have attended the weddings of my Bangladeshi siblings’ children in Washington, DC, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. Some of the family members have visited with us in our home in Connecticut. I feel so fortunate to have been able to have this experience of a very different culture and yet I found such love. I’m attaching a photo of me, with my four siblings and their wives/husbands at a family wedding in Thailand in January 2019 (I’m the woman on the right in the blue sari).”

Ben Kyriagis 75th Anniversary Story (1)

Ben Kyriagis

“I came to USA with AFS, from Greece, in 1971-72 I was hosted by the wonderful Wagenbach Family, in Barron Wisconsin. Two years later I came back to USA to attend the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. My Greek mother’s only advice was, “Don’t Marry An American”. Fortunately, I did NOT follow her advice. Instead I used it as the title to my Memoir, published in late 2021. More info about the book is available on Amazon and in my author’s website: My American wife, Shelley, and I will be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary. In my book, I have 5 chapters, (20% of the book) about my life changing AFS Year. ❤️❤️❤️ To AFS to all Host Families and volunteers and to all AFSers, worldwide!”

Edward Schell

Edward Schell

“As a quiet kid in high school, I had no friends and was shy. By my junior year, however, I learned of an exchange student at our school, which led me to join the school’s AFS Club. From there, the world opened up to me. I felt welcomed, made friends, and started to be fascinated about other countries, cultures, and people from all over the globe. AFS gave me great moments of happiness and exciting times that I don’t think I ever would have experienced during those school years if I hadn’t become a part of the group. It was such an influence on me that I became the club’s president in my senior year and then even shocked my parents by signing up to go abroad with AFS for the summer (All from a kid that hardly ever left the house, and never hug out with other kids). My summer abroad in Japan as a 17-year-old was one of the highlights of my life, and I’m 61 now. I recall how it opened up my world even wider so much so that I wanted the time to never end, I didn’t want to return home and I wanted to experience more of the world from every corner. Once I did return I started college and made my plans to make this experience continue. Two years later I returned to Japan to further my studies. Once I finished college, I assisted AFS in New York City as a volunteer group leader and assistant coordinator during incoming student orientations. My heart was once again filled with the thrill of that AFS experience. The memories of the excitement, the energy, and the happiness shared with those hundreds of people are times that still fill me with joy. Though life took me in other directions soon after that, I don’t think I can remember any better memories than the times spent with AFS. Now that I’m retired, I looking forward to returning to AFS as a volunteer. Thank you AFS. Looking forward to more great experiences through helping put the exchange programs.”

Thank you AFS-USA Schools!

AFS high school exchanges started with students in 10 schools in the Midwest and East Coast areas of the United States and have grown to include thousands of students each year traveling into and out of the U.S. Thank you to all schools supporting our mission of creating a more just and peaceful world by empowering people to become globally engaged citizens:

75th Anniversary School Recognition Page