Help & Learning for Host Families is an online resource of important articles to guide you and your family through the AFS hosting experience.
Organized as a series of articles and categorized to help you before, during and towards the end of your hosting experience it will guide you with:
- The key elements of an AFS exchange
- Practical information on helping you and your hosted participant to adjust during the exchange experience
- Essential information on rules and procedures related to hosted participant travel, medical concerns, school registration, and miscellaneous expenses
- Suggestions on how to cope with cultural differences
- Guidance on how to handle cultural misunderstandings or miscommunications
- Advice about hosting from experienced host families and host siblings
In addition to reviewing these articles, all AFS Host Families are REQUIRED to take our “Online Host Family Orientation”.
Please note that host families hosting a Sponsored Program (i.e. YES, CBYX, FLEX) student are REQUIRED to complete BOTH the “Online Host Family Orientation” AND “Sponsored Programs Online Host Family Orientation”.
The link to the orientation(s) was sent to you in the welcome email upon your acceptance as an AFS Host Family.
The information contained in this Help and Learning resource complements the information you will hear at the local Host Family Orientation, the content of the Arrival Orientation for hosted participants, as well as Welcome to the USA and Safety Tips for the USA handbooks, which your AFS Participant received in their home country prior to coming on program.
By referring to this online resource throughout your hosting experience, you and your family will be better able to:
- Develop realistic expectations about hosting an AFS Participant
- Integrate the AFS Participant into your family so that they become a fully functioning member of the family
- Help the AFS Participant adjust to your culture and learn your language
- Deal most effectively with the challenges that will arise during the year
- Support the AFS Participant as they learn and grow throughout the experience
- Support AFS in upholding our standards, policies, and procedures
- Partner with AFS to help ensure student safety
We have listened to thousands of host families that have hosted AFS Participants and learned from their hosting experiences. Through AFS support and orientations we can help students and host families transform misunderstandings based on cultural differences into opportunities for learning and growth. We wish you all the best as you embark on and navigate this journey!
Help & Learning Terminology Clarifications
Throughout this resource, you will see many references to “Volunteers.” AFS-USA uses the term “Volunteer” to describe those people who have volunteered to work for the AFS Program in their local communities doing work such as recruitment, orientation, support, logistics, etc.
These AFS Volunteers are registered by AFS and belong to specific local AFS units normally called “Chapters” or “Area Teams” and as such act as “agents” of our organization.
Host families, who also volunteer their time, are referred to separately as “Host Families,” and they are not required to register as Volunteers by AFS and do not act as “agents” of our organization.
Therefore, references made to “Volunteers” in this handbook, as well as in any other AFS publication, manual, or correspondence, refer specifically to those people registered by AFS to work in local communities on behalf of AFS and do NOT refer to host families.
"AFS Participant", "AFS Hosted Student", "AFS Hosted Participant", and “AFS Exchange Student” are terms used interchangeably in this handbook to refer to the AFS foreign student hosted in your home.
Another common term you will hear is “Sponsored Programs Student”. These are students who are participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, and Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program.
While host families are also technically participating, in their own way, in the AFS experience, the term “Hosted Participant” or “Participant” traditionally refers to the person you are hosting from another country.
The term “parent/guardian” in the AFS context refers to the parents/guardians who sent their child on an AFS program. It is important to note that they remain the legal guardians while the participant is on program, neither AFS nor the host parents become legal guardians.