2020-21 YES Abroad Program Update For Volunteers

2020-21 YES Abroad Program Update For Volunteers

Please note that this message is internal and for reference by AFS-USA Volunteers regarding the YES Abroad 2020-21 program. 

Dear AFS-USA Volunteers, 

We hope this message finds you and your loved ones staying safe and doing well in thnew year! 

This is an important update about the YES Abroad program for 2020-21. The State Department’s decision about YES Abroad is independent of and does not have any bearing on other programs, including any flagship (core) programs, nor to the inbound YES to USA hosting program. 

As you may recall from our previous MyAFS News announcement (linked here), the YES Abroad 2020-21 program began as a virtual exchange during the fall 2020 semester, while we awaited a determination from the U.S. Department of State regarding if conditions would permit an in-person program for the spring 2021 semester. 

AFS has been informed that the U.S. Department of State has determined that, while conditions currently permit an in-person program to Thailand during the spring 2021 semester, conditions do not permit other YES Abroad countries to host participants in-person. Given this, we are continuing to make arrangements for the YES Abroad 2020-21 students to Thailand to depart for Thailand in approximately mid-February 2021, and for all other AFS-implemented YES Abroad country groups to continue with spring virtual activities: Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Turkey. Following is a copy of the U.S. Department of State’s notice to those students continuing with a virtual spring 2021 program: 

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation continuously. Recognizing the ongoing challenges with overseas travel and program implementation, ECA has thoroughly examined the conditions in each host location and has determined that YES Abroad in-person programs will not take place in [Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Turkey] in January 2021. The 2020-21 [YES Abroad programs to these countries] will continue virtually for the remainder of the academic year. 

In making the final determination, and with participant health and well-being as our highest priority, ECA consulted with YES Abroad program implementing staff at American Councils for International Education, AMIDEAST, and AFS as well as staff at U.S. embassies in each host country. Many factors—including U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisories, availability of in-person school options, national and local COVID levels and prevention protocols, and availability of health care facilities—went into making this decision. 

We share your disappointment that conditions will not permit an in-person program this academic year. You have worked throughout this fall to embrace and learn about your host country. For that we both thank and congratulate you. These are challenging times for everyone, and you have demonstrated commitment to YES Abroad program goals. Virtual programming will continue throughout the spring, and should you complete the program, you will be considered an ECA Virtual YES Abroad alumna/us. If you choose to apply for the 2021-2022 YES Abroad program and if you remain eligible, you will be given special consideration. Please note that you will need to submit a new application and meet all eligibility requirements. 

Participants to Thailand have been advised that the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Bangkok will continue to monitor conditions in Thailand. An in-person departure to Thailand in mid-February is dependent upon conditions in Thailand continuing to permit an in-person program to occur. The Sponsored Programs staff at AFS-USA will continue to work with students, natural families, and our international partners on the pre-departure process for the YES Abroad 2020-21 students to Thailand.  

We sincerely thank our volunteers, participants, and natural families for their dedication to the meaningful citizen diplomacy fostered by the YES Abroad program, especially during these difficult times! Please reach Heather or Allen with any questions about the YES Abroad program at yesabroad@afsusa.org or 646-751-2151. 

With our best, 

Heather and Allen
Heather Jackson, YES Abroad Specialist
Allen Evans, Manager, Outbound Sponsored Programs 


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