End-of-Stay Orientation. 6-8 weeks before departures you local area team will hold an End-of-Stay Orientation for the hosted students. The End of Stay is a required orientation which is intended to give students the chance to plan their last weeks and give them a final structured opportunity to bond as soon-to-be AFS Returnees. Discussions for this orientation will focus on what students have learned, how they have changed during their exchange, and what lessons they should be taking home with them. They will also start thinking about preparation for their departure and travel to their home country.
Please read this document to learn more about some important travel and logistics information regarding the departure of your hosted student
Departure Logistics Webinar. You and your hosted participant will be invited by your local volunteer team to attend a Departure logistics webinar within two weeks of departure. This will be an opportunity to discuss travel and logistics related information regarding the student’s return home. Note: Some FLEX, CBYX and YES students may depart prior to the Departure Logistics Webinar, they will receive individual information about their departure from Sponsored Programs staff and the volunteer Cluster Coordinator. Click here for more details about Sponsored Programs departures.
Departure Day is the program end date for AFS participants. Participants will depart from their host community within two weeks of the last day of school on a pre-assigned return date. This date may not be changed unless participants wish to, and are given permission to, program release.
Winter departures generally take place in early to mid-January. Participants will usually travel directly from the airport they arrived in, directly to their home country. A local volunteer will contact you regarding the arrangements that have been made for your hosted participant’s return travel.
Luggage is always a challenging issue when participants return home. Throughout the year, participants have purchased new clothes, books, and accumulated gifts. Host parents can help their hosted participant by initiating a discussion about luggage in early May.
Participants will need to decide exactly what they will bring home in their luggage, what will need to be shipped home, and which items will need to be left behind. Neither host families nor AFS are responsible for the cost of shipping items home and this should be made clear to the hosted participant during this conversation. Don’t allow the hosted participant to leave this planning and shipping to the last-minute unless you are prepared to take on the work and cost yourself! Here are some guidelines to help with these decisions:
In ALL cases, AFS Participants are responsible for ANY/ALL overweight charges incurred on domestic or international flights. Hosted participants should have received luggage restrictions information prior to coming to the U.S. Given the amount of “stuff” the typical teenager will accumulate over a year, we strongly suggest that students follow the minimum international airline limitations. Most international carriers only allow ONE (1) checked bag under than 50 lbs. and one (1) carry-on item. Any additional pieces of luggage or boxes must be shipped home or students be prepared to pay additional fees. Some airlines are now charging for the first piece of luggage on international flights. If a student has a question about luggage, they need to reach out to the airline, sending partner office or contact their parents. AFS-USA is not in a position to answer questions regarding luggage.
Domestic Travel to the International Departure Airport
Your AFS Area Team is expected to hold a Departure Logistics Webinar 1-2 weeks prior to departures to communicate logistical departure information to students and host families on core and CBYX programs. Generally speaking, host families are expected to drive their hosted participant to the departure airport on the day of departure. Team plans, once at the airport, may vary so stay in close communication with your local volunteers in the weeks before your hosted student’s departure. A majority of our AFS partners will be purchasing a ticket to arrive to/depart from an airport within a 2-3 hour drive from your AFS Area Team.
If a student has a domestic flight, they are responsible for the cost of luggage fees. Currently, most airlines charge upwards of $50 or more for each checked bag AND have a weight limit of 50lbs per bag, with additional fees for overweight luggage. These fees are the student’s responsibility and will NOT be reimbursed by AFS-USA. Carry-on luggage is generally restricted to one piece per passenger of no more than 45 linear inches.
As stated above in the luggage section, all students are responsible for ensuring they have accurate information regarding the luggage restrictions and fees. Return international flight information is reconfirmed by our AFS partner offices between March and May (after the time change when there are many flight schedule changes). Your local AFS volunteer has access to this information and will be sharing departure information at End of Stay orientation or Departure Logistics Webinar.
Special note for South and Central America
During the summer, there is an embargo to South and Central American countries, and NO extra baggage is allowed under ANY circumstances. If you have any specific questions regarding luggage allowances for an airline, we recommend that you contact the airline that the hosted participant is flying on directly, as all luggage information is subject to change.