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Spotlight: AFS International Exchange Student Programs
AFS is one of the largest volunteer-based organizations of its kind in the world with more than 30,000 volunteers worldwide and more than 8,000 in the U.S. AFS specializes in exchange programs for high school students and young adults. AFS brings young people from all over the world to study in America and provides opportunities to American students to live and study abroad.

By Michele Silverthorn
Community Development Specialist AFS-USA


AFS Intercultural Programs (formerly the American Field Service) is a worldwide, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been a leader in high school student exchange for 60 years. During World Wars I and II, young Americans volunteered as ambulance drivers in the American Field Service evacuating the wounded from battlefields. When these brave, forward-thinking individuals returned home, they founded a movement to promote understanding and peace through international student exchanges, known today as AFS Intercultural Programs. The AFS founders believed - as AFS believes today - that the way to build a more just and peaceful world begins when people from different countries and cultures meet, learn together, and better understand one another. In 1947, for the first time ever, AFS exchanged 52 young people from 11 countries formerly at war, establishing a legacy of hope for future generations.

Today, AFS exchanges more than 11,000 students each year among a partnership of more than 50 AFS Partner Countries. AFS proudly acknowledges an alumni network of more than 300,000 individuals who have studied abroad on an AFS Program. Former AFS Students live in more than 100 countries around the world. As one of the largest volunteer-based organizations of its kind, AFS has 30,000 volunteers worldwide and approximately 5,000 in the U.S. Each year AFS-USA sends more than 1,500 students to more than 40 countries, awards more than $1.5 million in financial aid and scholarships, and places more than 2,800 students from abroad with U.S. families.

During an exchange to the U.S., foreign students study in local high schools and live with host families to learn what it is like to live as a member of a family and community in the United States. As the premier intercultural exchange program, AFS is constantly striving to broaden our scope of programs and participants. A suite of 18+ programs are geared specifically for high school graduates and older individuals interested in making a difference through community service or University Study programs throughout the world. AFS-USA's Global Educator Program grants educators from the U.S. the teaching opportunity of a lifetime, living and teaching abroad, and engages U.S. schools in bringing the skills and talent of outstanding educators from other countries to their own classrooms. Staying true to the Founders' message of spreading peace and understanding through intercultural exchange, AFS has always initiated innovative programs to spur international dialogue. In the last decade, AFS-USA's work with the U.S. Department of State has enabled hundreds of participants to exchange between the U.S. and predominantly Muslim countries. This has opened the door to communication between the young people of these nations and their families.

In San Diego, there are currently 18 students from 12 different countries studying in our local high schools and learning about our culture and customs. These students are living with families that have opened their homes and lives to share in the intercultural experience. Twelve San Diego students are experiencing high school and life abroad studying in summer, semester, or year-long exchange programs.

The previous year's programs have almost ended and we are expecting this year's students in early August, as the U.S. students leave for their countries. As we close in on August, we are actively searching for local families to introduce a new culture and different customs to their world perspective and enrich their family life by sharing it with a young person from another country and culture. If you or someone you know is interested in hosting a student (semester or year), sending a student abroad, or helping out by volunteering, please contact Michele Silverthorn at (619)713-0420 or

To learn more about our programs, visit AFS' website
You can also read the Wikipedia article on AFS here.

Michele Silverthorn
Community Development Specialist AFS-USA
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