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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We are right now experiencing the same kind of situation that others have talked about, where a student was abruptly pulled from the home over a fairly minor issue, that could have easily been resolved with some guidance from AFS. The student made the unlucky choice of calling his liaison for help one day, and the next day found himself being picked up from school with his belongings and whisked off to a new family in another town. My children were heartbroken and filled with self-blame for what they could have done to cause this situation. Although we were advised by AFS to break all contact with the student, so he could start his "new life" elsewhere, we have followed his saga on Facebook, where he has poured out his frustration, anger and despair over being uprooted from his family and friends here, and his continued attempts, over the past 3 months, to return to our town. He has even rallied the support of his friends at his high school here, having them sign petitions supporting his attempts to return here. AFS seems to have turned a deaf, bureaucratic ear to his pleas. I think AFS simply does not have the staff to deal with situations of any kind of complexity. It is so sad for the student, who will remember for the rest of his life that his experience in America was marred like this. And sad for my children, who feel that the wonderful experience of having an AFS student somehow failed, for reasons they do not quite understand.

Program:
Location:
Posted: April 17, 2013
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
59

I have experienced AFS both as a parent of a student sent to a year long program in Germany as well as a liaison for students visiting the US. I have found the AFS teams in both countries to be responsive in supporting a variety of activities as well as providing guidance in times of need. In Germany, my son had several liaisons connect his transition to a new country and a new language. Someone was always available to him and he found friends in the AFS chapters as well as the people he met through school and community activities.
Personally, I have enjoyed the people and students of AFS and my family has been given the opportunity to connect with other cultures. I would recommend the AFS program without hesitation.

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 21, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Jknoth
Age:
55

We hosted a student. Initially the experience was exciting. The volunteers were responsive. But early on there was tension in the family. We were encouraged to work it out - a good suggestion. But then the student said she did not think it would get better. Without helping her figure out how she could tell us the problem they moved her. They -the liaison and her supervisor never helped us talk about the problems. She never talked to me about what the problems were. They just remove red her from the house without regards to anyone's feelings. This student could have learned so much about negotiating relationships but did not. I then spoke with the liason's supervisor. She was no help. She just dismissed the issue. I realize that some kids who were in the exchange program experienced something awful. But even with this small problem I think they did a dis-service to us as a host family and the student. I will not recommend AFS to anyone.

Program:
Location:
Posted: October 25, 2012
Overall:
2
Support:
1
Value:
1
By: CZ
Age:
55

Comments

We had a very similar problem with AFS not working effectively to support families and resolve differences. AFS says that switching families is a last resort but what we saw was it is almost a first resort to just make any problem disappear for a time. AFS host families are not involved in the discussion to move, they just swoop in and out of your family with little notice in their comings and goings. It is not very good for a family, but we figured the boy's happiness is more important than ours so we didn't say much (although AFS doesn't ask either). Once we got wind that our student was not happy from AFS and he was proposing a move, we finally just left our student do pretty much whatever he wanted. Had we done that from the start, we probably would have kept our student, but then I don't think we would have been very good parents. At least not what I would have wanted for my child if he was overseas. In our situation, within a month of arriving, our student made a buddy from a much wealthier household that was more in keeping with his high lifestyle. Our student complained to them about our rules and our cooking (which was less rich than he was used too). They in turn complained to AFS and even called the host parents to see if they couldn't take him. The problem seemed to start with my wife requiring from the beginning that he needed to let us know of his comings and goings and he needed to introduce us to his friends so we could look out for him. We didn't have to restrict any though but we did know where he was at. He didn't like this, but we persisted because we had an exchange student the previous year that was very deceptive. After he spent a whole year with us we found out he did alot of drinking and sex with his school friends. Some Europeans, especially among the rich, don't have many morals this way and sadly some of our American school children don't either. We were determined not to let this happen again under our watch. Both boys fit in well while at home with our other children, but were difficult as teens are with maintaining rules at times outside the home. Our first exchange student dealt with our rules with apparent compliance and a generally pleasant demeanor. We thought we had a pretty good year until we learned more about his activities after he left. Our second student dealt with it through endless and often exaggerated complaining from the start to anyone who would listen. We believed the complaints to be pretty unjustified but would have been willing to try to work at it if we would have been informed of it in a straight-forward, truthful way either by the student or AFS. AFS did eventually tell us what they thought was going on but by that time the decision was made by "someone" in AFS that our families just didn't match and that they planned on moving the student to his buddy's family with the complaining mom to try to make him happy. It took them about a month to get their paperwork processed for the new family and he stayed with us for that time so we figured AFS wasn't too concerned. AFS supposedly lists us as a good family yet, but still we felt robbed of an opportunity to help this student with his life. But maybe that is the problem, we were trying to help a student that just wanted his own way. In the end, this exchange program isn't about being a parent for an exchange student as much as AFS is about trying to show even a spoiled teen a good time in the states. We actually really liked having both students in our home, it was just some of what they did outside our home that was troubling to us and the way AFS handles complaints from these teens. This last student was supposedly from a "good" family. I was surprised when the student told me in the end that his parents fought constantly, were very profain, the father was seeing a phsycholgist for depression and had used alcohol and drugs, but they were all very wealthy. None of that was in the application. In those last days it also surprised me what our student told me he had learned from our family in the couple months he was with us. It was very good, as our family does not have problems in some of the areas that challenge his family. We do have some rules though and we are middle-class. I don't think he was yet making the connection between some rules and the things he did like most about our family. I think AFS just allowed too easy a way out for this student and didn't involve us in trying to resolve anything. AFS says they support host families but this was just about non-existant. We won't do AFS again and I don't know if we would do an exchange program again without knowing much more information about the family the student is coming from and what their real motives are for sending their son or daughter to the U.S. My oldest two children have studied abroad while in college and it was valuable, but after a couple high school exchange students, I think they are too young to be without their parents guidance. I think as long as you let the AFS-student do whatever they really want you won't have many problems, the problem is that many teens are not able to handle this well until later in life. In the end, I was left feeling very disappointed in AFS too as you are.
I read your reply and found we had a similar experience. It is a shame because the student could learn SO much. I did go to the liason's supervisor. It was clear the liason spoke with this woman. She was dismissive for she did not even take my name and get details of the problem. So she had no intention of using this situation to improve the skills of the liason. I will go to this woman's supervisor but will be surprised if anything happens. I guess you live and learn.

My daughter went to China for a year with AFS in high school. As an overall experience, it was incredible and changed her life for the better. She was adopted from China, and always felt "different", and after this year she was a changed child from knowing that she was accepted, recognized as beautiful, and "fit in." She loved her Chinese high school experience, and loved the general experience of being in China. She was changed for the better as a person. And our local city AFS chapter is wonderful.
AFS China, on the other hand, and the support she received from AFS USA while over there, were a different story. Her host family had a frequently drunk father who hit his daughter, greatly upsetting my daughter. She did not want to leave the family because she felt very close to her host sister. There was quite a bit of heavy drinking and sex from the European AFS-ers, and minimal supervision from AFS China. Whoever was supposed to be supporting them over there was not supportive, and when I called the US person, he would take sometimes weeks to answer my calls and was unresponsive. (I was later told he was sick, but needless to say they needed a replacement.) So that part of it was not at all well done.
AFS is an old and extremely well established organization, and it is difficult to do a great job in so many countries working only with volunteers. On the other hand, at the least they could have good and responsive US staff.
So a mixed story.

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Location:
Posted: August 18, 2012
Overall:
6
Support:
4
Value:
5
By: pandaton
Age:
45

Hello Everyone!

In no disrespect to previous posts, I wanted to give a different perspective to prospective students based on my experience with AFS. AFS changed my life. I became fluent in another language, gained a new family, and learned a lot about myself and the world. This is a standard for studying abroad in general, however, I can't say that I would have had the same experience with a different organization.

AFS is professional, supportive, and their number one concern is the safety of the students-in my experience with them. They have local volunteers to support students if any issues come up with their host families (which of course it happens sometimes) and a 1 800 number for both AFS USA and the host country that is 24 hours in case you can't reach anyone in your community.
They always know where you are. For an independent, rebellious 16 year old, this isn't ideal but for my parents and my host mom it was incredible. I wanted to visit a friend in a local town and AFS instructed me to stay with a local volunteer who was a little bit older and a returnee instead of being allowed to stay with my friend or in a hostel (which is very common and safe down there). Again, being a bit rebellious, I decided to detour to another town on my way home on bus, thinking it would be no big deal, but my host mom called me in a panic, sick with worry, and AFS almost sent me home for disobeying the travel rules. Needless to say they had a close watch on me, and all of the other students.

AFS-Argentina did a phenomenal job of placing all of the students. A couple of students had to change host families due to conflicting personalities or because it just wasn't working out, but AFS took control of those situations and made sure to find them a better, more comfortable placement. I think it is important to note that there are a ton of cultural issues that come along with going abroad. Getting along with your host family and becoming part of the family is a complicated and confusing process. It is important to keep in open mind and recognize that every family has some issues. Of course, if this is a major issue that is compromising your health or safety definitely say something. AFS was good in mediating any of these issues.However, for all the prospective students out there I just want you to know this experience does not come without challenges.
Another thing I wanted to point out was that AFS goes through a lot to find families. First of all, all the families are volunteers. They do not get paid and want to have a student in their home for the cultural experience. They have to go through an extensive and rigorous application process to determine that all the members of the family are emotionally ready to host a student and that the family is financially stable to provide for another person. They must have an interview with a local volunteer (who is not monetarily reimbursed for finding a family- they are all volunteers as well) and provide three community references. I know this because I asked my host family what the application process was like for them.

In addition to that, I had a local liason who helped me with anything I needed. Granted she wasn't my favorite person just because she was older and a bit overbearing- but I knew my host family and my local liason was there for me if I needed anything. When I was homesick they set me up with another volunteer who was also a psychologist and she took me out for dinner to talk about how I felt... incredible. I didn't thank my host family or local volunteers enough for being there for me- as a 16 year old you kinda forget and I wish I had been more appreciative.

Anyway, that is my experience. I felt that since the reviews were pretty negative AFS should get some positive feedback for having such an impact on my life. I know there are A TON of people who feel the same and would encourage you to connect with people on facebook through ASK an AFSer. Also, it is important to note that AFS is the largest and longest running organization in the United States and, with that, comes greater chances for dissatisfaction or bad experience.

In my experience, AFS was 100% there for and I would highly recommend it.

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 14, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Yessica1
Age:
24

Comments

I've had a very bad experience with AFS. In spite of dealing with adolescents, this organization has a zero tolerance level, an extremely narrow mind and no sense of the damage they cause to families and students when they deny simply a second opportunity, destroying their lives. I do not know what's their failure percentage, what I do know is that we must be very careful with them, read thoroughly the contract and know what we are signing, and also know that a simple contact of the students with friends not as straight as AFS wants will have very serious consequences, throwing the student out of the country and putting an end to their education. Also, they keep all the money paid by the families, which says a lot for an Non Profit Organization. In our case, we have lost 6300 Euros, and we are not rich. So you know now: Beware of contracts we sign in a very light way, this people does not like problems, but they do like money.
You had a good experience with AFS, like many other people, of course, and it would have been the case to my son, but you cannot deny that they are extremely expensive and greedy, taking into account that almost everybody around them are working for free, from the families to the tutors. If by any chance you had been sent home due to some problems, as it is my case, your family would have lost a lot of money, and if they claim to be a Non profit organisation, honestly, they should refund the families, because at the end one feel that they penalising the children and their families as well. From my experience, I would never again recommend AFS.

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