AFS intercultural adventures transform your life forever! We call it the #AFSeffect
Live with a new family in another country. Enjoy different traditions. Take time to appreciate, value and deepen your insights about other perspectives, cultures, religions and important world issues.
Open your mind to a new way to view the world and help others see the world the way you experience it. Build bridges across cultures by creating friendships that will last a lifetime.
Go to a new school, learn a new language and find ways to connect with people from other cultures and backgrounds–skills that you’ll take back home and use for a lifetime.
Discover new things about yourself and your place in the world. Learn how to turn challenging situations into valuable opportunities to grow and become more mature.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
“I will never be completely home again, because a part of my heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price I have to pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. It’s not a trip or just an exchange program, it is a second life. Being on an exchange program is something I will never regret. Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t belong to your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow. Being on an exchange program taught me one major lesson:“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.””
You’ve explored AFS programs online or met us in person. Now you are ready to apply! Here's what to expect on your intercultural journey with AFS:
Find a program and start applying
Our application is thorough. But knowing some key things about you will help make your AFS experience amazing. If you’re stuck just give us a call.
You’ve been selected!
Not everyone becomes an AFS student. Your application, interviews and recommendations tell us how ready you are for an international student exchange. Now the fun begins!
Attend your AFS Orientation Session
AFS orientation sessions (before, during and after your program) help you navigate personal and cultural growth opportunities while you’re abroad.
Jump on plane and meet the world
Dedicated AFS volunteers, host families, and staff are prepared to make your AFS experience an intercultural learning adventure you’ll never forget.
Frequently Asked Questions for Students
What is AFS?
AFS is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides international and intercultural learning and education through diverse exchange programs among the youth of 53 different countries from all over the world. It provides youngsters with an opportunity to not only stay and study abroad, but also to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to become global citizens, address global issues and help create a more just and peaceful world.
Why my child and AFS?
AFS activities are based on the core values of dignity, respect for differences, harmony, sensitivity and tolerance. The exchange experience that your child is about to embark upon, includes these core values. Through this exchange program, your child will begin his/ her global exploration and gain a stronger understanding of both Indian and international relations. At the same time, s/he will start to develop interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills that will prove invaluable and help move the student closer to his / her personal, professional and academic goals. Also, AFS and their host families treasures, embraces and values each and every child they send for an exchange program as their own. In other words, the child is at home away from home/ the child feels very much at home.
Who are host families?
Host Families are families like us who are willing to accept a child (from a different country) for a certain duration of time; loving, supporting and caring for them as they would do for their own children so that they feel at home. In this span of time, they take care of their education, sports, extracurricular activities, boarding, lodging, and intercultural learning. They look after their needs as you would look after them.
Where will my child go? Which Country then? Do we have a choice?
There is a list of more than 50 countries that AFS has partners in. AFS does keep the child’s/ parents preference in mind, but does not guarantee the country that will be finally assigned to the child. The reason being that the priority of AFS is to match the right child with the right family.
What is the duration of the exchange program?
This will completely depend on the child’s/ parents’s choice. AFS offers both short as well as long term programs ranging from two weeks to one year. However, AFS prefers and suggests that a child should undertake the year long program in order for overall development and to take advantage of all the benefits associated with the AFS programs
When would this academic year begin and when should my child start preparing?
There are two cycles in which the student can be send for the academic year. One is from January/ February and the other begins from July/ August onwards. Most of the outflow is during the second cycle as the academic year for most of the schools in different countries begin in the second half of the year.
Will the academic system match with our academic system?
Different countries have different academic systems. Unlike India, they might not have three streams (science, arts and commerce) to choose from, but they will definitely have the option of choosing from a wide array of subjects like mathematics, science, languages, arts and commerce in many high schools. On the contrary, one of the main benefits of this sort of experience is the opportunity to explore subjects that are not typical in the home country schools.
Will the child not stand to lose some months of the academic year or the entire academic year then?
The student is asked to inform their Indian school and obtain a school letter from them when undertaking such a program in a host country. On completion of the AFS year in the host country, the student should request their host school to give them a copy of the transcripts (marks/ grade sheets/ credit points), attendance sheets, courses and syllabi before returning to India. This may be taken into account by the Indian schools and help them in deciding about the placement of the students upon their return.
Though it might sound as the loss of some months/ year, but the actual truth is that the child/ student stands to gain much more in terms of overall personality development and learning and qualifying as a global citizen. All around the world, students decide in favor of lengthening their time in secondary school by one year in order to take part in an AFS program.
Would my school year in a different country be recognized by my own school?
For recognition of the school year abroad, the students and parents should refer to the following link of the C.B.S.E. Website http://www.cbse.nic.in/examin~1/admissionmt.htm which states:- 6.2 No student migrating from a School in a foreign country, other than the School affiliated to this Board, shall be eligible for admission unless an eligibility certificate in respect of such a student has been obtained from this Board. For obtaining eligibility certificate from the Board, the Principal of the School to which admission is being sought will submit to the Board full details of the case and relevant documents with his own remarks/recommendations. The eligibility certificate will be issued by the Board only after the Board is satisfied that the course of study undergone and examination passed is equivalent to the corresponding class of this Board.
Thus, on a case- to- case basis, the school year attended in a different country may be recognized by the respective schools in India.
Any there are any costs involved? Do I have to pay for the exchange program?
Depending upon the program you choose, you will have to incur the fees/ costs involved which would cover your education, boarding, lodging and other expenses. This Program Fee incurred is available at a highly subsidized rate. Apart from this, AFS India also offers partial and full scholarships to the eligible and deserving candidates.
As mentioned earlier, this is a life-time experience and the benefit gained is much more than the expenses incurred.
In case of any emergency, how will I get in touch with my child? Who will ensure that my child is safe and secure?
One of the reasons for placing the students with host families is to ensure that the children are in safe hands.
The host families take care of the children as they would take care of their own children. This is one of the biggest advantages of associating with the AFS. In addition, we have a local representative or volunteer and national office staff in every country for a regular follow up and contact to ensure that the student can make the best possible use of his stay in the hosted country. AFS also has an established Line of Communication to make sure that everyone is timely informed.
My child might lose touch with me and never plan to come back? Or s/he might come under much western influence or develop certain bad habits due to open culture out there?
From much past experience, we can say that we have not come across such a case. The reason we select host families, local representatives, do regular follow-ups and get certain undertakings signed by the student, is to ensure that this exchange brings about only positive changes, growth and development in the person instead of any negative influences.
Scholarships and Discounts
AFS India is committed to helping young people to go abroad regardless of their financial situation. That’s why we work with corporate and community sponsors to help finance AFS programs through full and partial scholarships.
Get in touch with us to know more about scholarships available.
how to get your parents to say yes!
Information for parents
AFS is a leading study abroad program for secondary school students, supported and facilitated by trained staff and volunteers. Since 1947, AFS has prepared young people with practical skills and knowledge valued by universities and employers—and needed to succeed in a global world. AFS programs help young people learn about a world beyond their own communities—and become comfortable interacting with people from other countries and cultures.
Check out this exclusive booklet prepared for you to get an insight about various AFS countries’ culture, traditions, lifestyle, teenage life and more before you apply for the AFS Educational Programs.
How can I support my child from here during his stay abroad?
In order for your child to fully realize this opportunity and grow as a cultural ambassador and young leader, the family needs to support his/her growth during the year to come. This will be done by maintaining the least possible communication with him/ her in the year ahead, so that they can maximize their growth in the new environment and with the new people. Also, AFS will share several handouts with you that will demonstrate the intercultural learning and adjustment cycle that your child will be going, so that you are aware of his growth and development.
Can I support/ be of any help to my child in his/ her preparatory stage?
Yes, of course! Please discuss with and help your child formulate her / his goals for the year ahead. These goals should encourage him/ her to rise to the occasion and face the challenges of a year abroad, but they should also be realistic enough to be achievable. Please help them map out possible concrete steps to start achieving these goals.
Who will be the host family? I would like to know full details about the family my child will be living with.
AFS places a lot of emphasis on the host family and spends much time and effort in selecting one. After much thought and careful consideration, a match is made between the host family and the selected child as well as the student and the school. The aim behind this activity is that both the parents and the child can adjust well, be happy and learn from each-other and grow as a family.
Once a student – family match is made, the basic contact information is sent to the student. However, complete host family profile usually comes later, as it often takes some more time for the host families to get together some parts of the complete family profile, like pictures pages, etc. This, at times, results in a delay in getting the complete family profile sent to the student.
There might be times when some students might get their host family information ahead of others. In other cases, the students might not even receive any word about their placement until the very last day before they depart from their home countries. In that case they may be assigned a welcome family.
What do host families’ abroad look like?
Most host families are nuclear (not extended or joint as in India) and comprise a mother, father, children and pets. However there are also single parent families, families with no kids, older parents with grown children, etc. Families come in all shapes and sizes and colors. They may be natives of the host countries or immigrants to that country. As this makes a true AFS family!
What do you mean by a welcome family?
A welcome host family is a family with whom those students who do not yet have a year-long host family will stay when they arrive in the USA, Europe, Asia or South America, while we confirm their permanent host family placement. If your child is assigned to a welcome family, this means s/he will have a trusted and screened host family upon arrival, but that, at the same time, we will also keep working on his or her year-long host family placement. However, because the time for your AFS experience is drawing near, we want you and your child to have information about where s/he will be before s/he leaves India. Therefore, we assign a welcome family and sometimes a welcome host family becomes a permanent family. We will let you know if this becomes the case.
If your child is assigned a welcome family, do not worry! Just like the child’s year-long host family, they will be excited to meet, learn more about and welcome him or her until the permanent family placement is confirmed. In fact, those students with welcome families will have even more new friends and “family” in the host country – and will know that many more people when they arrive. This is a practice of ours that has been tested and tried for many years, as thousands of exchange students and AFS Returnees can also attest to.
In which city / state / region will my child be placed in the host country?
Students may be placed in any part of their host countries. Most of them are placed in the cities lying on the outskirts. Until the host family and school placement are not finalized, AFS will not be able to convey any information about the community or family to the prospective student.
Can my child complete her / his Indian studies while in the host country? (Can I send her / his Indian lessons to her / him in the host country?)
Many years of experience have taught us that this is not an advisable approach and in fact may contribute to a failing experience. Rather, allow your child to acculturate and learn from the experience by truly being in the host family, school and community with minimal distraction from “back home.”
Should my child carry his/ her academic transcripts (list of courses, mark sheets) and will s/he receive any academic transcripts and/or a Diploma?
Students should take their academic transcripts with them from their Indian schools. This will help them in choosing subjects at their host school. Carry the mark sheets listing the courses taken in the last year (if you are in the 10th standard then carry the preliminary marks sheets from the 10th standard plus the final marksheet from the 9th standard, not just the Board Exams results). Again, before returning to India, students should request their host school to arrange a copy of the syllabi, grades/marks and evaluation; as this will help the Indian school in the student’s re-entry placement.
Students should not ask for a diploma from their host high schools. As they have not completed their entire education there, a diploma is not awarded. If the student has attended the school regularly and performed as per expectations, AFS India will issue a ‘certificate of participation’ upon their return at request.
What about arrangements / assurances with the school / institution in India for continuity of studies after returning from the AFS year?
We request all the student applicants/ families to keep the Indian schools informed and in the loop. So that on their return, after completing their AFS year, the Indian schools can decide on their placements. The AFS Students should request their host high school to give them a copy of the transcripts (marks/ grade sheets) courses and syllabi before returning to India, which will assist the Indian schools in their placements.
Can you tell us more about the Line of Communication mentioned above to be in contact with our child?
The Line of Communication is defined as a student in contact with the host family or school, which in turn is in contact with chapter/local coordinator followed by the national office of the hosting country to the national office of the sending country (India) and finally to the natural family.
I would like to visit my child during his AFS stay abroad. Can I?
AFS does not encourage visits to your child in the host country in order to maximize his growth and learning. If you want to visit your child, it is allowed only after February of the following year (applicable for the year program) and requires prior written permission from AFS. If you have relatives that want to visit the student, again it is not advised or allowed soon after arrival, and the relatives should check with the local AFS office in the hosting country. Over-enthusiastic relatives can be perceived as ‘interfering’ by a host family that is trying to help the student. Please remember that the student’s adjustment to his/ her new family and community are our foremost consideration in this case.
Also it is not appropriate for the student to leave their host family and visit their relatives/friends on key holidays like Christmas. Diwali, Eid, Hannukah, etc, as sharing these holidays with the host family are key to the intercultural experience.
Does AFS arrange for the Visas and travel tickets?
AFS gives timely instructions about the visa applications. Please have you child check his/ her email regularly for notification on this very important matter.
The air tickets are booked by the AFS India Office (applicable to the year program) and you will be timely informed about the departure date by email. The departures will be from Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, depending on the country of destination.
Are there any luggage restrictions?
Yes there are luggage restrictions, so please stick to them. Per student: One check-bag: Weight: 20 kg; Size: the sum of the three dimensions of one bag shall not exceed 158 cm plus one carry-on bag. You may have read of different guidelines by the airlines, but because of the conditions that apply to the students’ tickets, these are the AFS standard weights. Also note that students will have to carry all bags themselves for considerable distances at their arrival airports (many foreign airports do not provide free trolleys) and at the camps. Also if they have domestic connecting flights, any excess baggage will be charged to the student. weapons and items that may be used as weapons which can discharge a projectile, or look-alike weapons, pointed and sharp items, like scissors or tweezers or nail files. And no matches or lighters.
We suggest that each student has a neck pouch with zip or Velcro closure for his / her passport and US$100 cash for emergency purposes. If a part of the visa is a sheet of paper or envelope stapled to the passport, fold it and put it in the pouch. Do not detach it!
Please make sure to make two to three photocopies of the passport, visa page and final immunizations records and ask your child to keep them in different places: in check-in bag, in carry-on bag resp.
Carry-on bag limitations: Your one piece of hand luggage may not be larger than 55 x 40 x 20 cm and may not weigh more than 8 kg. Not allowed in carry-on baggage are any items that may cause injury:
Can I drop my child to the airport?
All parents/ family can say goodbye to their children before the students join the Gateway orientation. Families are advised not to come to the airport, as the students will go from the bus directly to the airport. We also kindly request parents not to call the students during this orientation. No cell phones and or laptops should be taken to the orientations and to the host countries.
We understand that this is an emotional time for both students and parents, but our AFS experience has taught us that this “clean break” is easier and better for the students. Please say goodbye before putting your child on the train and/or dropping him or her at the Gateway camp or meet.
How will I get to know that my child has arrived safely in the host country?
Once students reach their host country, the national office in the hosting country will inform the AFS India office. We would like one parent in each zone or city to volunteer to be the person to whom we can pass the message and who will be the phone tree and call all other parents in that city.
Once students reach their families they will call you or email you. Please remember that the students get very busy and excited upon arrival at their host families. After the first information about their arrival, there may be no news or just a few lines – which is good news!
Will my child receive any other orientations?
In addition to arrival orientations in the host country, there will be multiple Gateway departure orientations at the day of departure.
We will revert with the details and the logistics of these Gateways by email and program information will be distributed when available, prior to the camp.
How will we-the parents cope with the dilemma of missing our children?
Please remember it is completely normal to miss your child while s/he is away! (And your child will also naturally miss you no matter how wonderful his or her host family.) To cope with these feelings, become an AFS volunteer in your city or community. Or your family might want to consider hosting a student from abroad. In such a case, please contact the AFS India Office to become a volunteer or host.
Are there any rules that my child needs to follow?
In addition to the rules spelled out in the Participation Agreement, your child will receive rules for his / her host country, which s/he must follow in order to make his/ her AFS Year a wonderful experience.
Are there any more forms or papers that need to be filled out/ completed?
The Visa Application Form: you will receive timely instructions from us on this. However, the process is different for different host countries.
The Participation Agreement: will be sent to you in duplicate. Please sign both the copies and return those (two copies) to the AFS India office. We will then sign and return one copy to you.
Medical Form Addendum/ Immunizations: all immunizations are to be completed prior to departure and this form is to be signed and stamped by your doctor and carried to the host country.
Does the child need a health insurance or is it covered by the AFS?
Concerning health insurance, the medical insurance policies that AFS offer are secondary policies which will cover injuries/needs the student develop in the host countries only. In other words, no pre-existing medical/health conditions and no dental or eye care (except in the event of an accident) are covered by these policies and conditions developed while in the host country that may be covered in host-country by these policies will no longer be covered when the student returns to her/his home country. Thus, all students on AFS programs are advised to carry their own primary insurance program if possible.
Does the child also get some pocket money in the host country or do we need to provide it?
AFS recommends an equivalent to about USD $100 per month for personal expenses (Clothes, shoes, magazines, games, etc.). Students may take this with them as travelers’ cheques or may have access to such an amount via ATM or a credit card.
Please remember that students should not have a lot of extra spending money (or cell phone or laptop), as it may not be appropriate to the host family’s income level.
Should my child carry a gift for the host family and any siblings there?
A small gift is advisable. It should be something “Indian” and not so heavy or expensive. It is the thought that counts.
Can my child carry any personal items?
It is a good idea to pack some personal items that “illustrate” life at home. Like photos of family,home, school and friends in India. The host family would like to know more about the student’s life in India.
Any other tips for my child?
Throughout your child’s stay, s/he will be given the opportunity to reflect on the exchange experience and the changes that s/he is undergoing. To enhance this, if the student likes to write, encourage her or him to keep a diary, or carry a camera (so that he can click photos and carry memories back home). Drawings or magazine image collages may be for those who are more visual. It will be a valuable treasure for the student to go back and read and follow her or his own progress in intercultural development through the AFS year.
Learn while exploring a whole new world
AFS helps you turn every experience into a true learning moment. Our volunteers and staff will guide you through the AFS Student Learning Journey—with a curriculum developed by knowledgeable AFS educators and other intercultural experts from around the world. Orientation sessions and monthly meetings with trained support volunteers will help you make the most out of your exchange—and prepare you for a lifetime of cultural encounters.
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program is an innovative high school exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This public diplomacy initiative builds bridges of international understanding, especially between Americans and people in countries with significant Muslim populations.
The YES Program evolved out of a generalized recognition that public diplomacy efforts had been neglected in many countries around the world for many years and that the effects of this came into stark focus in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.
AFS took a lead in rallying the exchange community and the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the U.S. Department of State to approach Congress with a coherent plan for support of meaningful opportunities for youth exchange as a key component of renewed commitment to building bridges between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world, particularly those with large Muslim populations.
The program officially launched in India in 2005 in hopes to expand communication between the people of the United States and India in order to promote mutual understanding and respect. Since then, over 430 Indian students have completed the YES program and now participate as alumni.
The YES program is administered in partnership with the U.S. Department of State by a consortium of non-profit organizations led by American Councils for International Education. In India, AFS USA manages the YES program in partnership with the local U.S. Embassy, Public Affairs Office.
YES students reflect a wide range of socioeconomic, cultural, and religious affiliations within their countries, including people with disabilities. YES participants are selected through an open, merit-based selection process in each country.
YES scholars are selected based on a variety of indicators, including an evaluation of their personal qualities, such as adaptability, leadership potential, and motivation for an intercultural experience. Recruiting organizations attempt to reach a wide audience within each country, embracing all of the ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic diversity within the target countries.
Eligibility Criteria for YES Program
In keeping with the U.S. Government-sponsored initiatives, dedicated to democratic reform, the competition for the Youth Exchange and Study scholarship is merit-based and open at no cost to all applicants who meet the following requirements:
Be between the ages of 15-17.6 by the start of program;
Be enrolled in 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th grade at the time of application (exceptions will be made for 8th grade students attending schools with winter bound sessions);
Have the equivalent of a B average or better without failing grades;
Meet U.S. J-1 visa eligibility requirements (for instance, U.S. citizens are not eligible for J-1 visa);
Be a citizen of India.
Students with Disabilities
The program can support students with disabilities and encourages their participation. The Department of State and the YES program work with Mobility International (MIUSA) to provide students with disabilities leadership-building workshops, appropriate information and support as needed to enhance their year in America. Students with disabilities must also meet the above eligibility requirements.
Application Selection Process
There are multiple rounds to the YES application and selection process. All applicants are required to take an English proficiency exam, write a proctored essay, complete a YES program application, and participate in group and individual in-person interviews. All finalists are selected on the basis of merit.
Studying abroad in high school is an exciting journey for both you and your child. We have compiled the information below to help answer some of the questions you may have about the YES program experience. For further information, please e-mail the YES office in your country.
Who will support my child’s well being while abroad?
YES participants are placed in volunteer host family homes and into host schools in the United States by established and reputable placement organizations that have competitively been awarded grants by the U.S. Department of State to implement the placement portion of the YES program. While on the program, your child will have regular contact with a trained coordinator in his or her community who will provide support, assistance, and guidance, and who will be in regular contact with the placement organization’s national headquarters.
As the consortium lead on the grant for YES operations, also competitively awarded by the U.S. Department of State, American Councils has a national office in Washington, DC, which cooperates with all placement organizations nationwide and with all overseas recruiting offices. Each country participating in the YES program has an in-country office with at least one permanent employee in each YES country. These staff, who are the main contacts for the parents of YES students, in turn communicate with all organizations placing YES students in host communities.
As a parent, how can I help promote the well-being of my child?
One of the ways you can help YES plan for your child’s successful participation in the program is by providing all relevant information regarding your child’s personal health and family history on the requested application forms. This information will not be evaluated as part of the selection process, but is considered when making host community assignments. Relevant information includes, but is not limited to, a diagnosis of or treatment for an illness, a physical disability, a learning disability, a behavioral or emotional disorder, a dietary restriction, or drastic changes in weight. Recent traumatic experiences or significant changes in the student’s natural family, including serious illness, death, divorce, incarceration, or custodial changes, can also influence a student’s experience. Living and studying abroad can be a stressful and challenging experience for people of any age. These stresses can be compounded by any existing physical or mental health issues or concerns at home that arise prior to the start of the program. In order to help YES organizations and their staff to make appropriate decisions about your child’s experience, please inform us of relevant situations as quickly as possible throughout the application process and program.
What is the involvement of the U.S. Department of State?
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Organizations implementing the YES program report to the U.S. Department of State.
Where will my child be living?
All YES students live with host families who have been carefully screened and selected. Host families receive formal orientation and training to introduce them to cultural differences and to prepare them for the hosting experience. Local coordinators provide support to participants and host families throughout the program. Students attend a school in their community alongside American peers.
What happens in the case of an emergency?
YES implementing organizations are prepared to respond to emergencies in the United States. Each organization provides 24-hour assistance in the event of an emergency and facilitates appropriate medical treatment, including evacuation, if necessary. YES consults with the U.S. Department of State and external risk management organizations to monitor the safety of participants while in the United States.
Will my child have medical coverage while abroad?
YES participants are provided with accident and sickness medical coverage to ensure that, in the case of an emergency, students will be treated as soon as possible.
What costs are covered?
The YES scholarship covers costs related to:
• round-trip airfare from your home country to the United States;
• the cost of a Pre-Departure Orientation;
• placement with a U.S. host family for 10 to 11 months;
• a modest monthly stipend;
• health insurance; and
• the cost of program activities and materials.
What costs are not covered by the scholarship?
Some costs that you can expect to incur from your child’s participation in the program include costs associated with obtaining a passport, required medical examinations and immunizations, and extra pocket money while on program.
How will YES help my child prepare to go abroad?
YES provides a wide variety of support mechanisms for students preparing to go abroad. Preparation for the YES experience begins shortly after the finalists are selected, with weekly follow up by each YES program country office. Additionally, all YES finalists are required to attend a Pre-Departure Orientation where they cover relevant topics that they will face during the program year. At the Pre-Departure Orientation, they are given a student workbook and handbook, which is theirs to keep and contains the material covered in the Pre-Departure Orientation. Lastly, upon arrival to the United States, YES students attend an orientation in Washington, D.C. with YES students from other countries, where critical information is reviewed before the students depart for their host communities.