Program: Study Abroad
Posted: August 18, 2012
My daughter went to China for a year with AFS in high school. As an overall experience, it was incredible and changed her life for the better. She was adopted from China, and always felt “different”, and after this year she was a changed child from knowing that she was accepted, recognized as beautiful, and “fit in.” She loved her Chinese high school experience, and loved the general experience of being in China. She was changed for the better as a person. And our local city AFS chapter is wonderful.
AFS China, on the other hand, and the support she received from AFS USA while over there, were a different story. Her host family had a frequently drunk father who hit his daughter, greatly upsetting my daughter. She did not want to leave the family because she felt very close to her host sister. There was quite a bit of heavy drinking and sex from the European AFS-ers, and minimal supervision from AFS China. Whoever was supposed to be supporting them over there was not supportive, and when I called the US person, he would take sometimes weeks to answer my calls and was unresponsive. (I was later told he was sick, but needless to say they needed a replacement.) So that part of it was not at all well done.
AFS is an old and extremely well established organization, and it is difficult to do a great job in so many countries working only with volunteers. On the other hand, at the least they could have good and responsive US staff.
So a mixed story.