AFS

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3.6 / 10 after 48 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings
Program website: http://www.afsusa.org

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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

I'm going to the US this summer from Japan. Guess what I still don't have a host family. We were supposed to leave in August 10th. People who already where placed just went to the US a few days ago. There are still many people who don't have a host family and are stuck in our country. Are new departure date is September 8th. I just can't stand that people who are stuck like me and people who are already in the US have month difference in this exchange program. It's just not fair. If you're not placed to a host family until August you have to leave in late September or even October and still come back to your home country on the same date with people who went on August. Actually there where like 4 people last year who even couldn't go on September. I gave tons of phone calls to AFS Japan and even USA but they tell us nothing because of some kind of treaty made between the two countries. Students who are stuck on their home country are having the worst summer vacation ever. We can't see Facebook because we can see the posts of people who are already having the time of their lives already. It's just too harsh to watch. I know it's hard to find a host family because it's all volunteer work. But it's clear that they should fix this situation. I couldn't believe that they've been doing this for years. Their must have been a lot of people who had the same feeling like me. I just hope now that I have a nice host family soon. I

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 17, 2016
Overall:
2
Support:
1
Value:
2
By: kamosuzo
Age:
16

The pros of being a host family are the incredible students. We were sent a very long list of possible students, including summaries and introductions written by the students themselves. We were allowed to choose students who would be a good fit for our family based on their interests, personality, etc. so in that sense, our experience has been wonderful.

The difficulty for us is the very tedious, redundant, unnecessary amount of contact we're required to have with the volunteers. I'm in favor of strict background checks as well as regular contact, and getting the international students together for activities. All that is great. However, the volunteers and liaisons tend to make every "mandatory" activity three times as long as it needs to be, with no real purpose. Every part of training seems to be repeated 3-4 times and if you are a busy family trying to juggle bio kids, an international kid, school, and bringing your student to cultural and tourist attractions, it's easy to get frustrated by the endless, repetitive, lengthy contacts from the various volunteers.

If you're perhaps a part time or stay at home/homeschool family, or looking for a social outlet in addition to hosting, this would be a good fit. If you're a student, I'd look carefully at the family and make sure it's a fit for you as far as you can tell, ahead of time. You're allowed and encouraged to have contact before you arrive, so that's a good time to ensure it will be the experience you hope for. It's also really expensive and they expect students to pay for additional items once they're here, so check into what program will give you the most for your $.

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 10, 2016
Overall:
3
Support:
2
Value:
4
By: familyX
Age:
50

I am writing as a HOST MOM!
We're nearing the end of our year, and I am appalled at the way AFS treats its volunteers, students and host families.

For all of the money that you pay for a program like this, I am shocked at how little the organization actually provides in the way of support.

Over and over again I have watched AFS dump on its volunteers, while neglecting the concerns of the students, host families and birth families.

My host student was placed with me after leaving an ABUSIVE host family. AFS IGNORED the situation until it had escalated so badly that even the school and other concerned parents got involved. We all acted quickly, but AFS doesn't work on weekends, so it took an extra 2 weeks to get the student moved to my home.

AFS does very little to actively provide support for its students when there are problems. Its staff members say things like, "We're trying...", when I know firsthand that nothing has been done (since I work closely with the school). They are slow to respond to calls and emails.

I've been dealing with AFS since January, and I am making sure to let everyone know what they are getting into, if they do business with this organization.

The only reason I didn't give a 1-star for overall or value is that I am guessing that when everything goes right, this might be a good program for some people. But in the event there IS a problem of any kind, don't expect any help or support. You won't get any from anyone with afs.org in their email address. (You might from the overworked volunteers). The people who are paid are too busy selling and marketing the program to actually pay attention to the needs of the participants.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 25, 2016
Overall:
4
Support:
1
Value:
4
Age:
48

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