Health and Safety for Study Abroad

AFS has the utmost concern for the welfare, safety, and security of our participants. The following benefits are offered to help promote students' safety and well-being:

Medical Coverage

AFS provides secondary medical coverage to ensure that, in an emergency, students will be treated as soon as possible, anywhere in the world. The cost is included in the program fee. Learn more.

Emergency Preparedness Plans

AFS is ready for emergencies, if they happen. With a professional network of experienced staff and volunteers who provide support in each country, 24-hour assistance is available in the event of an emergency. An AFS Situation Response Management Team is in place at all times to monitor events throughout the world and respond as necessary. While some programs have been curtailed at times, AFS has run programs throughout the world, without interruption, since it was founded in 1947.

Recommended Additional Insurance

AFS has arranged for Liability, Baggage, and Trip Cancellation Insurance to be available from a 3rd Party for an additional low per/day cost. Learn more.

World Health Advisories

AFS works across our international network to provide the most accurate information possible, so that participants traveling abroad are prepared to face, and appropriately handle, any potential local or global health events. You can also refer to the Centers for Disease Control for the most up-to-date medical and health advisories.

A note on personal safety for all AFS participants:

During your exchange you’ll have new and different experiences, but some things remain the same. While AFS has many policies and procedures in place to help protect your well-being, all new eperiences can come with some risk. It's important to keep in mind that, while it's good to be open-minded and adventuresome, you should never ignore what you've learned at home regarding your own safety, and should not compromise your personal or moral values at any point.

To help you cope with any difficult or confusing situations that could arise, you'll participate in orientations to learn about travel safety, internet safety, tips for maintaining emotional and physical  health, and how to identify and report sexual abuse. AFS volunteers and staff are trained on these issues and available 24/7 to swiftly address any safety concerns.

To play it safe, here are a few good rules to keep in mind:

Rule 1: Don’t Go Out Alone.
THINK ABOUT IT before you go. Remember that if you can avoid situations that put you at risk in the first place, you’re already one step ahead. There is safety in numbers and this rule is not just for little kids, it applies to everyone. We are always safer if we take a friend, host sister, or host brother.

Rule 2: Always Tell an Adult Where You’re Going
Never go somewhere with someone you don’t know. Leave a telephone number and an address with your family before you go. Letting someone know where you’ll be at all times is smart and responsible.

Rule 3: It’s Your Body
During your exchange year, you may face situations that put you in uncomfortable spots. You'll have to make decisions for yourself and could be faced with peer pressure. Remember that you have the right to reject unwanted and inappropriate attention such as teasing, touching, and bullying. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't.

Rule 4: Say NO if You Feel Threatened and Tell a Trusted Adult
Listen to your intuition and follow your best judgment. If your friends are making bad decisions, you don’t have to! Have the confidence to say "no" if something makes you uncomfortable. It's never too late to tell an adult if anything is bothering you. If someone – anyone – touches you in a way that you don't like, you have the right to say no. Don’t be afraid to make your feelings known.

Rule 5: Be a Friend to a Friend
If your friend tells you that he or she is in trouble or being abused, listen; be patient and respectful. Take what your friend is telling you seriously and encourage him/her to seek advice from an adult you trust and report the abuser. A threat to a friend may be a danger to others as well, including you.

If you are ever in doubt about whether any behavior you have experienced or observed is appropriate, or have a concern about your safety or that of a fellow participant, please immediately share your concern with your host parents, local volunteer, AFS staff member or any other trusted adult.

Information adapted from “Know the Rules”, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.