AFS-USA embraces diversity at all levels of the organization. From our program participants, to our trained volunteers, to our skilled staff members, we are dedicated to ensuring that the “AFS Family” represents the full spectrum of diversity in the U.S. We work to provide life-changing international and intercultural learning experiences that include individuals from all backgrounds, including persons with disabilities and those representing all races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, and genders. We believe that actively appreciating diversity brings people together, and we know that fostering inclusion is essential to fulfilling our mission of creating a more just and peaceful world. For more information, please refer to the AFS-USA Equity and Inclusion Statement and Statement on Racial Justice.
Students of Color
AFS-USA is committed to providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals from diverse backgrounds and communities, including mixed heritage, foreign nationalities, and all socio-economic levels.
We provide a variety of scholarships to make access to study abroad more equitable, and we work to develop a curriculum that addresses the diverse needs and interests of our participants. From programs focused on STEM education to Cultural Heritage programs that allow students to explore the countries and traditions tied to their family origins, we aim to make study abroad more accessible and meaningful for all participants (non- and U.S. Citizens).
As a global organization, AFS-USA is committed to welcoming non-US Citizens across our programs. As non-U.S. citizens require special processes to enter, remain, and exit the countries our programs operate in, AFS-USA will support these students to the best of our ability.
We also recognize that people of color may face unique challenges when studying abroad. That’s why we formed our Students of Color Exchange group, to provide specialized support and advice for students of color to make the most of their experience. We’re always here to help at [email protected]. Take a look at the tips and resources we’ve created and compiled to help black Americans prepare to study and live abroad and the Anti-Racism Resources Guide compiled by AFS-USA Returnees.
“As an immigrant…I am culturally different from mainstream American culture; however, this made the experience more enriching for both the host family and the exchange students.”
– Esteban A. AFS Returnee, USA to Germany
AFS-USA welcomes members of the LGBTQ+ community, and actively encourages and supports their participation in all types of AFS opportunities, including studying abroad, volunteering, and hosting exchange students.
LGBTQ+ students are underrepresented in study abroad. To help increase their participation, in 2019 we created the merit-based Pride Scholarship for openly-identifying LGBTQ+ students. But better access to opportunities is just the beginning. To foster inclusion within our organization, we take care to train our volunteers and staff to address the individual concerns unique to LGBTQ+ students and ensure their safety and comfort while on program.
All AFS Host Families provide an environment in which an international exchange student, far away from home, can experience the same elements of home that all of us desire – a warm, caring, and safe place that nurtures, guides, and supports us through the ups and downs of daily life.
As a Host Family for an international AFS Exchange Student, LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and families can make a profound impact in the life of a young person, while also opening up their own world. We also welcome the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals as volunteers, who support intercultural learning through a variety of opportunities that draw on their unique strengths and interests.
To show the world our commitment to LGBTQ+ acceptance and inclusion, AFS-USA officially joined the 2019 World Pride March in New York City. Over 100 AFS staff, host families, volunteers, and students participated, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that made June Pride Month and modernized the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Check out our photos from World Pride 2019 and read interviews and stories from AFSers in our LGBTQ+ Pride Articles collection.
For more detailed information, see our LGBTQ+ FAQs for studying abroad.
“At 16, I was still grappling with my identity and I could not anticipate how much my time abroad would help me grow personally and discover who I am while also learning about Honduran culture and society. Now, at 25 years old, I identify as a gay member of the LGBTQ community… I credit my AFS experience as a key step in my journey.”
– Justin D., AFS Returnee, USA to Honduras
Faces of America
The Faces of America (FoA) initiative aims to ensure that global education and study abroad opportunities are made available to all communities and are reflective of the diversity of our country.
Our community partners value the impact that the AFS experience has on their students and how it supports the goals of their leadership and college preparatory programs. Studies show that students who experience a study abroad program are more likely to possess the global leadership skills necessary in today’s workforce. When students return from an AFS exchange, moreover, they are excited by what they’ve discovered—about the world and themselves—and inspired to keep exploring new and diverse opportunities. Nearly all FoA participants go on to college, and many participate in undergraduate exchange programs.
Our Approach to Diversity and Inclusion
At AFS-USA, we are committed to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) by increasing opportunities for, and interaction among, individuals of diverse cultures, races, sexes, ages, disabilities, gender identities and expressions, creeds, sexual orientations, religions, veteran statuses, marital statuses, national and ethnic origins, political opinions, and socioeconomic statuses.
AFS-USA’s IDEA group implements diversity initiatives across the organization to improve program quality, train staff and volunteers to be inclusive, provide resources and guidance to students and host families of all backgrounds, and achieve the AFS Mission and uphold our Values.