Study Abroad FAQ

Why should I study abroad?

By going abroad in high school, you can change your world in ways that are both visible to you personally, and visible to your friends, family, teachers, and future peers and colleagues. Many AFSers say that their experience was “transformational.” They gain new maturity and independence, and develop a better understanding of what their passions and long-term goals are. They also share that they’re better prepared than many of their peers for the college application and interview process.

There are practical benefits to going abroad in high school too, like gaining language fluency, developing critical intercultural communication skills, and forming lifelong connections that span the globe and often last a lifetime.

The impact of going abroad is different for everyone. Attend an Online Info Session with AFS Study Abroad Specialists or visit Ask an AFSer on Facebook to learn more. There may also be a local event coming up in your area - check and see.

Where will I live while I’m abroad?

For most AFS programs, you’ll live with a carefully-screened, volunteer host family. AFS families come in all different shapes and sizes, but every one of them has a connection to a local AFS volunteer, and has gone through an orientation that helped them prepare for hosting a student. Most families live in towns or cities with small to medium populations. Because your host family selection will be based in part on your personality and interests, we’re not able to accept requests for placement in a specific city or region. This is why it’s important to be flexible!

On most dorm-based programs, you’ll live together with other students from around the world, and will have a program leader on-duty 24/7. Each dorm experience is different; check out the specific program page for more details.

What will it be like going to school in a different country?

Your academic experience will vary greatly based on your host country. Depending on your own academic background, you may find classes in many parts of Europe and Asia to be more challenging, while in some Latin American or African countries, the academic experience could be less demanding. Either way, going to school abroad is an immensely effective way to learn another language. Most classes will be taught in the local dialect, and sure, you might be confused at first! But if you’re like most AFSers on year or semester programs, by the midpoint of your program or even sooner, you shouldn’t have much of a problem following along. Just remember: it's all a part of the immersion experience.

Your specific school placement will depend on a lot of factors, including where your host family lives. You may or may not attend the same school as your host siblings, if you have any. No matter what, you won’t have to pay extra for your schooling – that’s all included in the program fee (though you may need to buy a uniform, which is not included).

Will I get school credits for the classes I take?

Maybe, but we can’t guarantee it since it's ultimately up to your U.S. high school to decide. We suggest talking with your teachers and guidance counselors as early as possible, so that you can all do your best to fit an international experience into your high school plans. We recommend following these guidelines, and keeping records of the classes you take while abroad to show your school after you return. While we’re happy to talk you through the process, AFS can’t work directly with your school in the U.S. or abroad to ensure credit.

How will I travel to my host country?

Prior to departure, you’ll meet up with the other students going on your program and go through a short orientation in your international departure city. There, you’ll get to talk to someone who recently spent time in your host country or region, and will have the chance to ask any last-minute questions. Then you’ll fly together with the whole group to your host country. You may also have an AFS staff or volunteer fly with you, especially if you’re in a large group. Most Global Prep program participants also fly with AFS staff. No matter what, you’ll have AFS staff or volunteers help you check into your flight and meet you at the airport upon your arrival and return.

What happens when I first arrive in my host country?

Upon arrival, you’ll see AFS staff or volunteers waiting to greet you at the airport. In some cases, you'll be brought directly to a welcome orientation that may last anywhere from a day to a week depending on your program. In other cases, you'll go straight to your host family upon arrival and attend a welcome orientation at a later date. The trip to your host community could be by car, train, bus, or even airplane depending on the distance, but you’ll likely travel with fellow AFSers who will also be living in your community. Alternatively, your host family could come pick you up and you’ll all travel together.

Who will support me during my program? What happens if I have a medical emergency?

As a volunteer-based organization that has been implementing exchange programs for nearly 70 years, AFS has an extensive support network for you, your family in the U.S., and your host family abroad. There are local AFS staff and volunteers in every host country, as well as a Support Staff here in the U.S. – there will always be someone on-call, 24/7.

While you’re abroad, your first level of support will be your host family or group leader. You’ll also have an additional volunteer “liaison” who will serve as your personal bridge to your new host family, community and culture.

Even if you’re already insured under your family’s medical plan, your program fee includes secondary medical insurance. As part of our commitment to your health and safety, this plan ensures that you can get medical treatment as soon as possible in the case of an emergency.

Learn more about how AFS provides for your health and safety while abroad.

Are there any scholarships or resources to help me fundraise for my program fee?

Absolutely! AFS awards $3 million in scholarships each year. There’s a vast range of opportunities that are either need- or merit-based, as well as lots of fundraising resources and support. The best place to find out what’s available in your area is on the Scholarships page. For more info about applying, check out the Scholarships FAQs or Fundraising FAQs, or email scholarships@afsusa.org with specific questions.

Are there any eligibility requirements?

Different programs are right for different people. For example, you may need prior language experience or a higher GPA for some school-based programs, while for others there won’t be any academic or language skills requirements. You can find eligibility requirements on each program’s page. Across the board, AFS experiences are designed for students who are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, open-minded and flexible, and willing and able to try new things.

What’s involved in the application?

The application is our way of learning about you. There are two main parts: one is personal information that you can fill out on your own or with the help of your parents; the other involves information that you’ll need to gather from people who know you, like your doctor and teachers. Check out our guided tour to get a better idea of what it entails.

We recommend giving yourself about 2-3 weeks to complete the application, but that time varies student-by-student. (If you’re super motivated, you could get it done in as little as 48 hours).

We’re available to help you with your application and have a rolling acceptance policy. Generally speaking, the sooner you submit your application, the better chance you have of participating in your first choice program. Many programs have a finite number of spots, and some programs fill up before the deadline. It's best if you apply as early as you can.

Click here to begin your application! 

Is there anything I won’t be able to do while I’m abroad?

Yep. Because your health and safety is our #1 priority, there are a number of country-specific rules that you’ll need to respect. Each one is designed based on cultural norms and sensitivities. There are also three global rules that all AFS students must follow: 1) no drugs, 2) no driving, and 3) no hitchhiking.

If you break those rules or do anything to purposefully behave out-of-line, you can be sent home early. Going abroad is a big deal; we want to help you represent your country well and stay safe while doing so.

What’s included in the program fee? What’s not included?

The program fee includes your round trip international airfare, accommodations with a host family or in a dorm, your school or volunteer project fees, orientations before and during your program, secondary medical insurance, visa support and assistance, and 24 hour emergency assistance should anything come up while you’re on program.

You’ll need to take care of your domestic travel to your international departure city, visa and passport fees (which range from zero to $1,000), and spending money while you’re abroad. Most students spend between $100-$300 per month, since meals are covered by your host family or provided in your dorm cafeteria.

Learn more about where your dollars go, and our payment and refund policy.

Can I travel during my program, or have friends or family come visit me?

Travel to other areas in the region may be allowed with permission from your parents and AFS in your host country, especially if it’s at the end of your program. Too much travel can keep you from really immersing yourself in the local culture, but short trips can be a great way to learn more about the area. You might also have the opportunity to go on organized trips with your school or other AFSers. Travel back to the U.S., however, is only allowed under very rare circumstances.

If you have friends or family who want to visit, the visit must be approved by AFS and we strongly recommend arranging it for the end of your program so that it’s not disruptive to your experience.

What travel documents will I need before I leave?

No matter which program you go on, you’ll definitely need a passport. In fact, you’ll need to have one in order to secure your spot on most programs, so we recommend taking care of it sooner than later since it can take 6-8 weeks to arrive. You can learn more here.

The other document you may need is a visa. A visa is a stamp or document placed in your passport that allows you to enter and live temporarily in your host country. It’s required for all year and semester programs, and some summer programs. It is your responsibility to obtain your visa, but we’ll help you through the process. We recognize that obtaining a visa can be time consuming, but please do not being applying for your visa until you are notified by AFS.

A passport costs about $135, and a visa can range anywhere from zero to $1,000. We’re happy to help you find countries with less expensive visas if that’s an issue for you.

What's the “Early Action Date” and how does it work?

AFS accepts applications on a rolling basis, and programs are filled first-come, first-serve. This means that if you apply by the Early Action Date, your application will be reviewed sooner and you’ll have a better chance of getting your first choice program before it fills. If you’ll be living with a host family, applying earlier also means you may find out who your family is earlier.

Not quite ready to hit ‘submit’ in time? No worries. If you miss the Early Action Date, you can still submit your application at any point before the deadline. You can also still change your mind about which country you want to go to, though you will still need to pay the $500 program deposit. Also note that you can continue to apply for scholarships after the Early Action Date, all the way up to the deadline listed on each scholarship webpage.

Can I participate in a program if I am a non-US Citizen or Dreamer?

As a global organization, AFS-USA is committed to supporting non-US citizens on our programs. As non-US citizens require special processes to enter, remain, and exit the countries our programs operate in, AFS will support these students to the best of our ability. Our staff will review your citizenship status and direct you to great program options abroad. Learn more.