AFS-USA provides opportunities for intercultural exchange that develop the global competence needed to create a more just and peaceful world. As we’ve consistently demonstrated, AFS nurtures active global citizens who make the world a better place. Research has proven that study abroad programs allow students to form the long-lasting, meaningful relationships necessary to deepen creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

With a vast global network of students, parents, families, staff members, and donors, the AFS Effect stretches across borders and divides. We interviewed some of the most impactful global citizens in our community to share what drives them to be a part of AFS.

The Study Abroad Student

Rebecca Gudzy

NSLI-Y and AFS-USA Alumna, U.S. to India, ’15

How has studying abroad impacted you?

Going to India was an incredibly empowering experience and taught me to not second guess myself, to own my capabilities and strengths, and to do so unabashedly. AFS has changed every person that I know who has done the program. It’s all been for the best, most incredible ways. I have not stopped pursuing international opportunities I have had since AFS.

The Study Abroad Parents

Jill and Richard Averitt

Study Abroad Parents, Hosting Parents

What drives you to send your children abroad?

Because of our amazing experiences hosting students when our children were younger, they themselves expressed a desire to become exchange students. Our kids wanted to have that same experience in another country and have stories of their own to bring back to us. Our family has expanded exponentially because of the students we brought in and the new families and friends our children have made abroad. Our lives are richer and our connections broader because of AFS.

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275,000+ AFS-USA Alumni

Our alumni are champions of global competence and agents of change. Many have chosen careers in education, international affairs, science and technology, medicine, media, and business and work to make the world more peaceful, sustainable, and interconnected. When our participants become alumni, they can continue to rely on AFS and fellow AFSers to further develop their global skills.

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The Alum

Maxfield Nieves Malik

AFS Returnee, U.S. to Japan, 2010-2011, AFS-USA Young Ambassador

What have you learned from your AFS experience?

When I went abroad, and in interacting with AFSers since then, I’ve learned that all AFSers have a commonality. We want to achieve something. We go abroad with a sense of purpose. A goal we strive for; a path we intend to follow. Even through uncertain times, you can still continue your journey with the international community.

The Hosted Exchange Student

Mark “Friendly” H. Andrino

KLYES Student, Philippines—Texas 2018

What did you learn from your exchange experience?

Through AFS-USA and the Department of State, I was able to open my eyes and widen my horizons about individual cultural differences. I was able to meet wonderful people who helped me shape my perspective about the wider world, and most of all, I was able to experience and explore different cultures firsthand, which gave me an understanding of how wonderful diversity is. My exchange experience would never be this wonderful without AFS-USA, who became one of my torchlights as I ventured the tracks of my journey as an exchange student. Being a part of AFS-USA is like being a member of a global family, with my brothers and sisters from the different corners of the world.

The Host Family

Sheri Belton-Gonzalez 

Host Parent

Why does your family host exchange students?

Being a host parent allows me to give back and give students from other countries the opportunity to have some of the experiences that I had personally. It gives us all a chance to learn and grow from each other. It’s also an opportunity to give your own children a sense of the world. It helps to understand that differences aren’t a bad thing, they add to the greatness we all have. It’s not taking anything away from anybody; it’s additive.

The Volunteer

Davide Pu

AFS Alum (Italy—China 2006-07), Volunteer, Recipient of AFS Emerging Leader Award 2019

What drives you to volunteer?

My AFS Study Abroad Experience and my passion for the AFS Mission drives me to volunteer. I got to meet people from all over the world and build intense and strong relationships that still last today. Some of my best friends are from AFS. It opened my eyes to the world. It gave me a passion for traveling, took me out of my comfort zone, and my tiny town. Ultimately, I want students to realize how similar we are despite cultural differences. Our students are ambassadors. Once they come home, they steer people away from stereotypes and fearing other cultures.

The Career AFSer

Melvin Harmon

Staff Member (Chief Officer of Marketing, Customer Experience, and Strategic Advancement, Member of AFS-USA’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Group and the LGBTQ+ Exchange)

What motivated you to work for AFS?

In 1980, AFS (and my local AFS chapter) funded my entire program – from the AFS participation fee to my domestic airfare, including all sorts of other costs – even my first suitcase. I was beside myself and hardly able to grasp what was happening since an AFS experience seemed so unattainable. AFS’ choice of Malaysia was, hands down, the perfect choice of host country for me. My year in Malaysia was transformative in so many ways and it gave me an incredible level of confidence. So, at 24 and bolstered by that confidence, I decided, “I’m going to work at AFS.” and headed to New York City. Once I arrived, I parked myself in the AFS lobby and said, “I need to talk to somebody about working here. I know I have to work here, in whatever capacity. This is where I’m supposed to be”.

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The World Needs More Global Citizens

Through supporting AFS programs, you foster transformative experiences that last a lifetime. Today’s exchange students are tomorrow’s changemakers: diplomats; thought leaders; influencers in the international business and nonprofit communities. Every new AFS Student is another global citizen in progress—an individual primed to help build a more just and peaceful world. And the impact doesn’t stop with the students. Host families’ lives are transformed by students from across the globe and host communities gain greater cultural diversity. That’s the #AFSEffect.

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The Scholarship Donor

Janet Voigt

Donor of The Keith A. Voigt Study Abroad Scholarship

What drove you to create this scholarship?

To honor the life and legacy of my husband, Keith Arthur Voigt, an AFS Returnee from Ohio who studied abroad in Bogota, Colombia in 1975-1976. In the spirit of Keith, I see this scholarship going to somebody who has a strong sense of wanderlust. This endowment celebrates and helps us to remember Keith’s life and his adventurous spirit, love of humanity and kind and generous heart for years to come.