AFS encourages everyone in our global community to embrace our “learning to live together” philosophy and foster intercultural understanding to create positive change for a more just and peaceful world.

To accomplish this, AFS educational programs help future leaders, global citizens and changemakers develop essential 21st century intercultural skills to thrive and succeed in a globalized world, build bridges among cultures and tackle the world’s interconnected problems.

Specifically, AFS intercultural learning programs are designed to help AFSers and people of all ages:

  • Learn firsthand about the impact of culture on values and the decisions they make
  • Gain the ability to better see themselves through the eyes of others
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Broaden their views on stereotypes and global issues
  • Gain understanding on how to shift perspectives effectively, appropriately and authentically
  • Create innovative solutions to resolve real-world challenges
  • Develop the practical 21st century skills, knowledge and understanding needed to become active global citizens


Intercultural competency reinforced with other critical 21st century skills

Being interculturally competent or culturally fluent is important across all professions today–whether the sciences, the arts, public policy or otherwise. Businesses, governments, the academic world and NGOs all need people who have international experiences and insights, as well as other critical skills.

Increasingly, universities, employers and NGOs seek students, staff and volunteers who have a good sense of the world beyond their own communities—and are comfortable interacting with people from other countries and cultures in rapidly changing times.

That’s why AFS learning programs also support key education goals for the 21st century beyond intercultural competence. These include:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Flexibility
  • Teamwork

Intercultural learning and global citizenship education are transformative, lifelong pursuits that involve both formal learning and practical experience.

AFS Intercultural Learning Journeys

AFS has developed three Intercultural Learning Journeys. These education programs were developed by AFS’s internationally recognized education team with inputs from teachers, academics and practitioners. They are based on state-of-the-art-research and sound education methodologies, plus 70 years of providing successful AFS exchange, volunteer, host family and other international programs that build interculturally competent leaders.

Each journey is supported by a robust curriculum designed for each key group within the AFS community:

AFS learning programs are:

1. Transformative

Learning as a journey of change: Intercultural challenges and learning moments are inevitable parts of our everyday lives, our classrooms and public spaces. AFS experiences are transformative. They prepare people of all ages to engage, lead and collaborate effectively across cultural and other differences.

2. Goal-based

Goals-based curriculums and methods: The curriculum for each program includes carefully chosen activities, facilitated conversations and other exercises that are directly tied to a set of education goals and objectives that were developed for each group. Trained volunteers and staff help individuals move through their appropriate program in a progressive, developmentally designed manner to become interculturally competent, responsible global citizens and agents of positive social change

3. Immersive and structured

Immersive experiences supported with structured learning: Working, living and collaborating in diverse settings define the AFS experience for all students, families, volunteers and staff. However, no matter how important and interactive the immersion experience is, simply being around diverse people is not enough to develop the practical and highly valued intercultural skills and understanding needed today. AFS learning programs provide support, encouragement and skills training to turn intercultural experiences into meaningful intercultural learning opportunities.

4. Non-formal

A non-formal learning environment: The lessons, discussions and activities of our journeys take place outside of a classroom or traditional academic setting. Students, host families and volunteers are supported by designated trained volunteers and staff through one-on-one sessions, group training events and orientations.

5. Experiential and practical

Experiential learning = enhanced learning: AFS believes in the strength of experiential learning. We put participants at the center of the developmental process, guiding and supporting them along the way. AFSers are taught how to learn from and make meaning of their new experiences, using tools to help them reflect and analyze them in a structured way. Next, they are encouraged to experiment and adjust their behaviors based on insights gained—and continue the cycle of learning.

6. Life-long

Learning for life and lifelong learning: Finally, each AFS Learning Journey is a lifelong experience with a defined starting point and regular milestones, but no true end date.  AFSers begin learning with their first contact with the organization , then continue to grow long after finishing their official program or assignment. Many students continue become active volunteers for the organization, host families or participants in other AFS programs in order to keep deepening their skills.

Measuring the impact of ICL

AFS has a long history of measuring the educational impact of our programs. Our academic research is considered standard-setting for the industry. Please to find out more by contacting [email protected]. Beginning in 2016, a select number of AFS student participants can opt to track their learning in an e-portfolio to help them understand how they are advancing toward their educational goals. This record can be shared with their schools back home or be submitted as a part of university applications.

Did you know? AFS Learning Journeys can be customized for many different audiences. Ask us how AFS can create an intercultural education program just for you. Contact [email protected].