AFS Effect refers to the impact that Cultural Exchange programs leave on the exchange student. Thus, the student from various countries who came to the Philippines for a year of cultural immersion has witnessed how the #AFSeffect applies on their daily life.

A year after as they have now graduated, their reflections mirrors their exchange journey. In fact, one of the exchange students from the United States, Abby Lewis, has shared her AFS story. She mentioned some of the necessary traits she learned from her whole experience:

“Conquering fear, being independent, initiating genuine volunteerism, developing cross-cultural awareness and becoming the agents of change (Abby Lewis, May 15, 2018).”

These AFS Foreign Exchange students, just like Abby Lewis, have studied in the Philippine secondary schools for a year. They wear certain school uniforms to attend classes, joined school clubs and played sports. Basically, they lived like a typical Filipino student. One of the difference, however, is that they were hosted in various AFS partner communities from various cities and provinces. Through the help of our Filipino host families, partner schools and local volunteers, the students had a unique learning experience of the culture that represents a mixture of Asian, Spanish and American influences.

Aside from this, those who came from the non-speaking English countries were able to widely develop their English skills and even learned some local dialects such as Bisaya, Ilonggo, Tagalog, and others. They had their own unique lens of the Filipino culture as they have seen it from different angles.

It was during the End-of-Stay Orientation that happened last May 13-15, 2018 at the BSA Towers, Ortigas that the students got a chance to reunite with their fellow exchange students. They shared the highlight of their momentous year with laughter, amazement, and endless talks. Of course, their life with the Filipino families and the love from their local friends is what they are going to miss the most.

Even one of the students- Maddie Postlethwaite who was hosted in Zambales, said, that she felt so grateful to the openness and acceptance of her Filipino friends and classmates and that she will forever cherish the moments she had with them from her classroom experience to their outside trips and travel adventures.

After the three-day orientation, students were given a certificate of completion and tokens (a badge of the Philippine flag) to recognize their successful year of intercultural educational exchange through the AFS Programs as they have experienced the Philippine Educational System. The most important is that all throughout AFS IPP took the chance to convey the deeper understanding of the AFS Mission and that is “one needs to have a better understanding of the world through intercultural learning and education”.

The experience they had in the Philippines serves as a foundation for them to be able to create an impact on their community and to the global arena. As a year has already passed, their lifetime mission of being a catalyst for change continues. It is the spirit of volunteerism that acts as the root of AFS. Thus, upholding such attribute is vital in addressing various social issues happening worldwide.

Each one of them should understand global issues for them to eventually ignite the spirit of volunteerism in their community. Volunteerism is definitely a challenge for every youth who wants to embody the duty of an “Ambassador of Good Will”.

As Ambassadors, students, as they reached their homes, are expected to share what they have learned in the program for they are now the future leaders who have a better understanding, wider perspectives and is pragmatic to world issues.  They are now the agents of change – and that is an #AFSeffect.

The students who belong to the Northern Hemisphere 2017 (NH17) cycle are from the following countries.  Belgium (some pax came from Luxembourg & Netherlands), USA, Japan, Italy (but one pax came from Ecuador), Germany, Indonesia, Turkey, Panama, Hungary, Latvia (but pax came from Lithuania), Poland, Spain (but pax is a German), Austria, Switzerland, Denmark (but pax came from Greenland), Brazil, Colombia, and France.