AFS-USA is designated by the US Department of State as a J-1 Visa sponsor in the Secondary School Student category. In accordance with US Federal Regulations governing J-1 visa sponsors such as AFS, AFS-XXX is required to share the following information with you before you and your parents sign the participation agreement and/or pay the nonrefundable application fee of $X,XXX.

$X,XXX.00 (For a list of what the program fee covers, please click here.)


The AFS program fee includes the cost of secondary medical insurance and Additional Benefits as outlined in the Participant Medical Plan. There are no additional charges, co-payments or deductibles for insurance, however, participants may choose to purchase, optional travel and personal liability insurance.


AFS-USA recommends you bring USD 2,500 for personal expenses for the year program or USD 1,250 for the semester program. These funds should cover your personal expenses such as toiletries, movies, social outings, gifts, and your school yearbook. You should not expect your host family to pay for these expenses. You will also need to pay for any medical expenses not covered by the AFS Medical Plan. Expenses not covered by the Participant Medical Plan are those that participants can expect, elect, or control including general and sports physicals ($75-200), immunizations ($35-150), and dental treatment that is not the result of injury to sound natural teeth ($75 and above). To refer to the Participant Medical Plan for details on the exclusions, please click here.


AFS is committed to providing intercultural learning experiences that help people become agents of positive change in the world. Increased cultural competence is the stepping stone for a global tomorrow and a diverse today. In support of this mission, AFS has created 16 educational objectives, each focused on different aspects of personal, interpersonal and community development. These goals serve as the backbone for AFS exchange programs, and help participants develop the knowledge and skills that are necessary to succeed in an increasingly globalized workforce.

Learn more about the educational goals of AFS.

AFS Volunteers help participants to achieve the educational goals of AFS through one-on-one coaching and during mandatory orientation events that take place during key points in the exchange experience, as outlined below.

  • Arrival Orientation: Usually a one-day orientation given at the very start of the students’ program to provide participants a chance to meet with others from around the world who are hosted in their same area, while providing an introduction to essential program information, such as:
    • AFS Learning Objectives
    • AFS policies, requirements, and expectations, and any information specific to the     participants’ local community
    • The cultural adjustment process
    • Developing realistic expectations for the upcoming year
    • General host family expectations
  • Post-Arrival Orientation: Generally an overnight or weekend event, held several weeks after arrival, for participants to share their concerns about the challenges they may be facing while adjusting to their new surroundings, and to hear the stories of other exchange students going through similar experiences. This orientation revisits many of the issues introduced in the Arrival Orientation, while also addressing the following topics:
    • §  Adjusting to a new family
    • §  The AFS support structure
    • §  Personal safety and well being
    • §  Cultural adjustment strategies
    • §  School and friendships
  • Pre-Return Orientation: This half-day to day-long orientation is aimed to prepare hosted students for their impending return to their home countries, as well as families and students to say goodbye to each other. It generally occurs several weeks before student departures, providing host families and students with information and activities on:
    • §  Sharing experiences and major lessons
    • §  Summarizing the AFS experience
    • §  Preparing for departure
    • §  Host Family and community appreciation
    • §  Feedback and evaluation
  • End of Stay Orientation: Typically a one-day orientation that occurs before hosted students return to their home countries, it is aimed to provide a transitional time period between saying goodbye to the U.S. family and hello to the participant’s natural family, while also giving participants the opportunity to reflect on what they have gained, how they have changed, and how these differences may be viewed on others back home, focusing on:
    • §  Travel logistics
    • §  Cultural adjustment and learning
    • §  Goals and expectations
    • §  Looking back and moving forward

Many teams also offer a Mid-Stay Orientation conducted in the middle of the students’ program, usually lasting one to two days, with an emphasis on students’ reflections on their AFS experience thus far, and to help participants understand that they are undergoing a continuous learning experience that will develop their personality, and likely change their awareness and perception of cultural differences.

It is crucial that all participants attend each orientation. Every AFS participant will experience a series of emotional ups and downs during their stay abroad. This is a normal and important part of the intercultural exchange experience. The AFS orientations are designed to help participants through this adjustment process and to deepen their knowledge of the host culture, while gaining new insight on their home culture.