As people around the world become increasingly connected, we are challenged more than ever before to expand our knowledge and attitudes in order to participate in the emerging global community. By providing immersive learning experiences in foreign cultures, AFS gives participants opportunities to build solid foundations for the future, whether in their academic careers, their entry into the workforce or simply in their role as responsible and tolerant members of the larger community.
The exchange programs offered by AFS are focused on increasing intercultural competence, which helps people adapt comfortably and contribute positively to new cultural environments. Participants and host families have the chance to broaden their perspectives and learn from each other, developing their communication skills in the process. They expand their ability to engage and interact with individuals from other cultures, emerging from the experience with the necessary preparation live in a diverse global society.
Impact of AFS Programs
By developing superior communication techniques and improving participants’ understanding of the unfamiliar, AFS gives individuals better insights into the perspectives of people from other cultures. This resulting empathy and compassion enables participants to mediate conflict in future situations.
Research has shown that AFS alumni have more diversity in their social and professional networks. They are also more likely to find a job that involves frequent interaction with people from different cultures.
AFS Participants experience dramatically lowered feelings of anxiety in foreign environments as a result of their time abroad. Not only do they feel more comfortable around people from other cultures, they are much less likely to view the world in terms of "them" and "us." In fact, a 2008 study on the long term impact of exchange experiences showed that 39% of returnees felt it would be very desirable to live in a diverse neighborhood, as compared to only 28% of their peers.
People who take part in exchange programs show increased intercultural development and more global awareness.. This is assessed by the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), a scale that identifies varying worldviews through which people perceive cultural difference. AFS Participants had significant improvement in their developmental score, as a group moving nearly 2 points on the scale away from ethnocentric tendencies towards an ethnorelative outlook that evaluates new people based on their values and perspectives.
The ability to speak and use a foreign language provides countless advantages in the workforce as well as in everyday life. The type of immersive experience provided by AFS exchange programs is one of the most effective ways to learn another language. Over 70% of AFS Participants achieved fluency in another language after the completion of a year studying abroad.
Information on the Intercultural Certification.