AFS

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3.9 / 10 after 39 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings
Program website: http://www.afsusa.org

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This program exploits well-intentioned host families for providing free vacations, food and board for ungrateful foreign students used as commodities to generate large amounts of money for the AFS program, the only winners in the mix, How it is a non-profit is beyond me.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 14, 2016
Overall:
1
Support:
2
Value:
1
Age:

I am very very disappointed with the program. The girl my family chose is from Japan. She was recommended to us by AFS and not on the website. She communicated with us right away as well as her family and the exchange student her family was hosting from Australia. My granddaughter and i became very attached to her from the beginning and planned to visit the family next year. First of all i would not recommend getting close to the family right away until you meet the child and not make plans on meeting until you know how the stay is going.
The first warning sign was my exchange students exchange student contacted us the day my student left for California from Japan. Her exchange student told us how "entitled and spoiled" our student was, how the students family mistreated her, how the student was when it came to boys ect. I told my granddaughter, who is the same age as our student, to ignore the comments and lets get to know our student for who she is.
Boy did we.
At first things went rather well. We grew to love her like another family member. She participated in family events, and it was actually a joy to have her around. She became very close to my granddaughter as they were both seniors in the same school. We made plans to travel with her, ect.
Two months into it the student started becoming lazy and did not want to clean. I had to comprise a schedule so she and my granddaughter would take turns doing normal chores like cleaning their room and bathroom, taking out trash, dishes ect. I noticed this girl was eating in her bedroom. I asked her several times to stop. My granddaughter became depressed because the girl was starting drama with her male friends and began to feel like she was the girls caretaker. I started to see what the other exchange student warned me of. Also, she ate like a linebacker. I understand we are supposed to feed them but can we have a limit? I am not joking when i say she eats her weight in food per week if not more. When i called the liaison to vent their solution was to take her from us. This upset us. We still cared very much for her and did not want her to leave. I just didn't expect to spend so much money out of pocket to feed the child. Eventually we had a sit down with AFS and they agreed to let her stay and assess the situation in a month.
Well things didn't last that long. After realizing dishes were missing and i was getting more and more ants in the house i inspected the students room and realized she was a food hoarder. I found food, dishes, empty food jars hidden in the closet, under the bed, in drawers and a half container of salad dressing in her laundry basket and boxes of trash hidden under the bed. At the time she was with one of the volunteers at her house visiting with their exchange student and siblings. I called and explained the situation and was told they were placing her someplace else. That's when the nightmare began. The student was placed with another family and this student proceeded to bash me to other students, friends of my granddaughter and whoever would listen. She lied about me not feeding her, said i made her get up at 11 pm to clean and it goes on. She is known to spread lies and even her mother commented on the weight gain, something that wouldn't have happened had i not fed her like she said.
I do not feel supported by the staff at AFS and feel like they took her side immediately. I opened up my heart and home to this "prima donna" who clearly did not clean at home (as her exchange student stated) was boy crazy and had mental health issues. I do not think AFS screens thoroughly enough. Also feeding a child and housing them for 10 months is excessive now that i think about it when its for free. This child complained that i made her pay for her own food when we went out to eat. Yes, that happened twice. But given the fact that she was eating me out of house and home, would eat everyone else food at dinner when we went out if they didn't want it, would order more than the average person could eat and her family would go out to dinner constantly and always make her exchange student pay, well she has nerve to say the least.
At this point i am using this forum to vent. I'm sure there are others who have had positive experiences. After hosting i talked to several friends who hosted at one point or another in their life and stated they would never do it again and neither will I. I feel used and taken advantage of and to top it off this ungrateful student is going around spreading lies about me to boot. It is not worth the aggravation.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 1, 2016
Overall:
2
Support:
3
Value:
3
Age:

I am very very disappointed with the program. The girl my family chose is from Japan. She was recommended to us by AFS and not on the website. She communicated with us right away as well as her family and the exchange student her family was hosting from Australia. My granddaughter and i became very attached to her from the beginning and planned to visit the family next year. First of all i would not recommend getting close to the family right away until you meet the child and not make plans on meeting until you know how the stay is going.
The first warning sign was my exchange students exchange student contacted us the day my student left for California from Japan. Her exchange student told us how "entitled and spoiled" our student was, how the students family mistreated her, how the student was when it came to boys ect. I told my granddaughter, who is the same age as our student, to ignore the comments and lets get to know our student for who she is.
Boy did we.
At first things went rather well. We grew to love her like another family member. She participated in family events, and it was actually a joy to have her around. She became very close to my granddaughter as they were both seniors in the same school. We made plans to travel with her, ect.
Two months into it the student started becoming lazy and did not want to clean. I had to comprise a schedule so she and my granddaughter would take turns doing normal chores like cleaning their room and bathroom, taking out trash, dishes ect. I noticed this girl was eating in her bedroom. I asked her several times to stop. My granddaughter became depressed because the girl was starting drama with her male friends and began to feel like she was the girls caretaker. I started to see what the other exchange student warned me of. Also, she ate like a linebacker. I understand we are supposed to feed them but can we have a limit? I am not joking when i say she eats her weight in food per week if not more. When i called the liaison to vent their solution was to take her from us. This upset us. We still cared very much for her and did not want her to leave. I just didn't expect to spend so much money out of pocket to feed the child. Eventually we had a sit down with AFS and they agreed to let her stay and assess the situation in a month.
Well things didn't last that long. After realizing dishes were missing and i was getting more and more ants in the house i inspected the students room and realized she was a food hoarder. I found food, dishes, empty food jars hidden in the closet, under the bed, in drawers and a half container of salad dressing in her laundry basket and boxes of trash hidden under the bed. At the time she was with one of the volunteers at her house visiting with their exchange student and siblings. I called and explained the situation and was told they were placing her someplace else. That's when the nightmare began. The student was placed with another family and this student proceeded to bash me to other students, friends of my granddaughter and whoever would listen. She lied about me not feeding her, said i made her get up at 11 pm to clean and it goes on. She is known to spread lies and even her mother commented on the weight gain, something that wouldn't have happened had i not fed her like she said.
I do not feel supported by the staff at AFS and feel like they took her side immediately. I opened up my heart and home to this "prima donna" who clearly did not clean at home (as her exchange student stated) was boy crazy and had mental health issues. I do not think AFS screens thoroughly enough. Also feeding a child and housing them for 10 months is excessive now that i think about it when its for free. This child complained that i made her pay for her own food when we went out to eat. Yes, that happened twice. But given the fact that she was eating me out of house and home, would eat everyone else food at dinner when we went out if they didn't want it, would order more than the average person could eat and her family would go out to dinner constantly and always make her exchange student pay, well she has nerve to say the least.
At this point i am using this forum to vent. I'm sure there are others who have had positive experiences. After hosting i talked to several friends who hosted at one point or another in their life and stated they would never do it again and neither will I. I feel used and taken advantage of and to top it off this ungrateful student is going around spreading lies about me to boot. It is not worth the aggravation.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 1, 2016
Overall:
2
Support:
3
Value:
3
Age:

I am writing this post as a volunteer host family. We are going thru this experience at the moment and I would like to share some things that I have learned. It has not been easy, but we are learning from this experience.

First of all, I would recommend reading about AFS, getting to know your chapter coordinators and doing your research before you accept having a foreign exchange student in your home. Ask a lot of questions about the student and if possible try to see if she/he will be a good match for your family. It can be a very frustrating situation if you get the wrong person. I know that this can be challenging because AFS does not provide a lot of information and in our case, our student did not reply to our e-mails prior to coming to our house nor he did ask any questions about our family and expectations. In our case, we selected this particular student for his interests, but we have not seen much of that so wondering how much of the students' bios is really accurate.

AFS's best interest is to place a student in any family because this is money for the company. They really do not care about the family. As long as you have a nice house and live in a nice area, I learned that this program is expensive. Still cheaper for students, though, because they would have to pay more money if they paid for food or housing. So in some ways, these students get a good deal also.

Second, as a host family talk about expectations you want to have with the foreign exchange student. Having a stranger at home can add stress and frustration plus adding cultural differences even more. Communicate to the student in the beginning what your expectations are in terms of household activities, family relationships, finances, vacations, behaviors in your house. This will reduce headaches. I think that AFS does not do a good job communicating this to the students. You need to set the tone of this experience, will you let the student call you mom, dad, by your name...etc. This is a process and do not expect that this stranger will adapt to your family right away. If you decide to be called mom or dad, make sure that you treat them as such; otherwise, there will be some issues of resentment if there is a difference in treatment between the student and your own children. So it is very important that you decide what you want to do and how you want this person to be included in your family.

AFS tries hard to incorporate the students as part of your family since day one, but this is unrealistic because you do not know this person. It is a process that develops with time as the relationship progresses. Of course, AFS wants that you fall in love with this person and treat them as your own. But, this is a process that develops over time. AFS is unrealistic. This company has a good mission and goals, but unrealistic from day 1.

Finances is a very important topic to discuss. Our student was expecting that we were paying for everything. He thought we were paying for an expensive music instrument for her school. When we told him that his natural family had to pay for it, he did not want to buy the instrument until he checked with them. But, he did not think that way when he thought we were paying for it. Sometimes, he would forget his money when he asked to buy personal supplies and we had to pay so it was awkward at times. So to keep a healthy relationship and avoid resentments, communicate to your student and set expectations. Advice them and offer some suggestions about how they can budget themselves and what they need to pay for. Some of these kids are too young and had never dealt with money issues so they come to you expecting that you will take care of them. But, it is important that you set some boundaries in the beginning to avoid frustrations and resentments.

In our case, our student who never took the time to ask questions or answer our emails prior to his visit, came with very high expectations. He thought he would make a lot of American friends right away and that he would go on trips every weekend. Kind of like a tour travel agency. We provide food, housing, restaurant outings, movie outings, free transportation, we decided to bring her along with our family on vacations all paid by us and yet feel like it has not been enough. (By, the way, you are not required to bring students on vacation with you. This was a personal choice we made). He has also found out that it has not been so easy to make friends in High School right away as he thought. Of course, if depends on the student's personality and cultural adjustment. But, you may need to help with this also by introducing to other people and providing experiences that could lead to more friendships.

I think that some of these students forget that we are volunteers and that we do not get paid for anything. On the contrary, we have paid out of our own pocket for a lot of things. They forget that we are families who have to work also and have responsibilities to pay bills to keep a house. In our experience, I think that some of these students have no idea about the amount of work and money involved to host them in our homes. But, as I said, we are volunteers and we did it because we wanted to help.

This AFS experience has some nice things like exchanging some cultural information and learning about different cultures, which is nice. But, overall it is more work than what you think. It is a big responsibility and you are left on your own. You will also be a counselor at times, you may have to deal with temper tantrums like in our case with our student (as any other teenager), cultural differences, misunderstandings...etc

Yes, AFS provides some mandatory student events and they are required to call you to check on the student every month. But, that is pretty much it. They do not care about anything else. If your family is having some difficulties, this is your problem not theirs.

If you are really interested in hosting a student, do your research before hand. Having the right person in your house can make a huge difference. It could turn into a positive experience for the whole family or a nightmare where you get stuck with this strange person for a year and you will just hope that it is over soon as in some of the posts I have read.

For foreign exchange students, I would recommend the same, do your research and ask a lot of questions before you decide to live with a family. If you do not ask questions, you may come with very high expectations to find out that this experience is not what you thought it would be and there will be disappointment on both sides. So read, investigate, research about the culture and adjust your expectations if you decide to go to a family.

Overall, we are not very impressed by this AFS company. We will not be hosting any other students in our home. I think that once is enough for us. Good Luck to you all!

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 20, 2016
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
25

Comments

Excellent insight. Thank you for taking the time to write this. We, as a family, are still reeling from our experience as a host family last year. One thing I would add to your review is better screening for exchange students. We received a very entitled and spoiled student, who had constant contact with her family. Our first liaison quit and she suggested a mental health specialist to continue on with our student. AFS did not replace the liaison for 5 months and we were on our own. There was no appreciation for the THOUSANDS of dollars we spent to remodel a bedroom for her, take her on countless trips, birthday and Christmas presents, cell phone and other amenities she enjoyed. We are not a rich family and this was a huge sacrifice on our part - both monetarily and emotionally. We were glad to do it until it sunk in that AFS, our student and her family were just using us as a free travel service, along with free room and board. Even with her attitude, there were good times and we did grow to love her. Little did we know that we would be stabbed in the back for the last two months, as she was removed from our home after the lying and manipulation went too far. She manipulated the situation to her benefit, so she could move in with her best friend (another exchange student) and get her own way for the last two months. No rules, no boundaries...basically a free for all. God forbid that we ever ask her exactly where she was going or try and explain to her that, "no, you cannot get into a car with boys we don't know and not know where you're going." AFS bowed to her and her family. I'm assuming because of the horrendous cost that AFS charges to the families to send them here. Who makes the money if they are "non-profit"? My children were devastated by the experience. My hope one day, is that our student and her family realized what they did to us. AFS could care less. If I could, I would like them shut down. Their policies are also out of date. If their students have access to their families 24/7 with today's technology - why even come for the cultural experience? Our student said she couldn't balance the two cultures. She wasn't supposed to, she was supposed to acclimate to ours. She also couldn't handle being told "no" and not getting her own way. I cannot tell you how disgusted we are with the whole experience.
Great review! I agree whole heartedly with everything that you said. We had exactly the same experience with their female students!

Due to the high cost of participation, this program accepts upper middle income students from abroad who bring with them spoiled, ungrateful, "prima donna" attitudes of entitlement. If you want to be "used" as a free hotel or "B&B" without any gratitude or appreciation then this is the program for you. Be forewarned, you'll be lucky to get so much as a "thank you" for anything and everything that you do know matter how much it costs you!

Program:
Location:
Posted: October 11, 2016
Overall:
1
Support:
6
Value:
1
Age:

Comments

Agree with everything you said. A total nightmare for us.
Case in point...just read the student's perspective from Japan just prior to my comment!

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