2021 Study Abroad Programs and Updates

2021 Study Abroad Programs and Updates

Dear AFS-USA volunteers,

Hello from the AFS-USA Study Abroad team! We hope that you all had a happy and healthy holiday season!

As a reminder, our Study Abroad Department was severely downsized last Spring. We currently have three staff members who are working on AFS-USA Study Abroad for the entire country. A quick introduction to the team!

Caitlin Schneider, Senior Director of Study Abroad: Caitlin has been with AFS for 9 years working in the Hosting, Sponsored Programs, and Support departments before transitioning to Study Abroad about three years ago. Caitlin is assigned as the volunteer contact for the Northeast, Eastern Lakes, and Southeast Regions. Caitlin works with applicants who are applying to the following partner countries:

Belgium France, Belgium Flanders, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand.

Justin DeAndrade, Senior Manager of Study Abroad: Justin has been with AFS for 5 years starting first in the Lead Management Department before transitioning to the Study Abroad team. Justin is also an AFS returnee to Honduras! Justin is assigned as the volunteer contact for the Western Lakes, Mountain and Plains, and West regions. Justin works with applicants who are applying to the following partner countries: Argentina, Uruguay, Austria, Columbia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland.

Adriana Miladinovic, Study Abroad Specialist: Adriana has been with AFS for 7 years working in our Participant Support Department before transitioning to the Study Abroad team this past summer. Adriana is working with our Faces of America program managing our community-based organization relationships and working with applicants from those organizations. Adriana is also working with all applicants to help them through their visa and residence permit processes.

Remember that you can easily find who from the Study Abroad Team is working with an applicant on the student’s service case screen. Under the field “Sending Contact Person” you’ll find the staff member assigned to that applicant!

2021 Programs

After a year that challenged us in many new and different ways, we are happy to still be able to send AFS participants abroad in 2020. We sent 44 participants abroad on our Fall NH20 programs, including both flagship and 18+ programs! Additionally, we are working on sending 26 participants abroad for our Spring SH21 cycle. Our NH21 programs have been launched and are seeing successful recruitment campaigns with 10 programs already filled of the 55 programs we are offering for the upcoming cycle. We are on track to meet our goal of 100 participants on program for NH21!

Most of the interested 2021 applicants have come to us through web searches and we have seen a decrease in the number of applicants who have learned about AFS through their school or a family member. This stands to reason as there are no longer school presentations happening, or large gatherings or events. However, this is an important demographic for us because these applicants have the highest rate of converting from an applicant to a participant on program. So, we are encouraging all volunteers to talk to their networks, friends, and family about AFS-USA’s study abroad opportunities for 2021! Remember that you can give applicants that you are working with the promo code AFSNow that will take $50 off their Application Fee!

What’s New?


AFS-USA is no longer able to provide any AFS funded scholarships, which made up most of our scholarship offerings. This includes need-based scholarships like Global Leaders. We are still offering local scholarships when available, so I encourage any team that has scholarship money to reach out to us and let us know if you are interested in sponsoring applicants! We also encourage teams to explore fundraising for their applicants. We will do our best to continue to be resources to you, but given staff capacity and organization efforts, this is the area in which we have the fewest resources. Please reach out to our team directly as opposed to using the scholarships@afsusa.org inbox. Alternatively, you can send questions or applicants with questions to studyabroad@afsusa.org and we will get to them as soon as we are able!

Summer Programs:

Our summer programs have also been launched, and while we are still waiting on some final logistical pieces of information from our partners, we are actively recruiting for those programs. We are still waiting on final information for a new summer program to Ireland that will have a STEM focus and be held in Dublin in partnership with Trinity College. Stay tuned for more information! Please check out our website, or the Sending Programs report, to see which programs are available!


We have updated all the program pages on the website to include the following eligibility information: Age, Accepts Graduates, and GPA. While there are some other criteria, these are the strictest requirements from partners and their inclusion on the program pages allow interested applicants to know right away whether they are eligible for a program or not. We have also updated each program page to indicate whether a program is available. Open programs have a green APPLY button, while those that are not open say CLOSED. We hope that this will help add transparency to the applicant experience as they look for which programs they are most interested in!

Help and Learning:

We understand that a lot has changed, and it is confusing to understand what is happening with study abroad at AFS, how to find interested applicants, etc. We have updated all our Help and Learning materials with new information to help you recruit interested applicants! Please visit the Send Participants Abroad section of Help and Learning to learn more about contacting applicants, finding applicants in your area, and finding available programs! You can also check out the Study Abroad specific COVID-19 FAQ’s and Resources that has information about how we are making decisions about program viability, and what logistics look like currently. This can also be found in Help and Learning.

Study Abroad Widget:

We are working with our colleagues in IT and Digital Resources to get the Study Abroad widget back up and running! For now, its main purpose will be to show you a list of applicants in your area, their contact and school information, explain what part of the application process they are in, and the program they are in line for. The widget will also link you to the Interviews widget. We are happy to get the Study Abroad Widget back up and running and look forward to additional features in the future!

Language Proficiency Testing:

As you might have already seen, we have been working with our colleague Jill Woerner to incorporate language proficiency testing into select programs for 2021! We are very excited about this as we feel that it adds significant value to the AFS experience from the applicant and parent perspective, but also from the school perspective! The selected programs are those where the following languages are the primary languages of daily life and study: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. This will be available based on which programs are running each year. Please also see Jill’s article in MyAFS News!

Coming Soon, A New Advisory Group:

We have begun the process of securing approval for a new study abroad advisory group. We are still very early in the process, but we are very excited about the prospect of getting this off the ground and reestablishing our connection with all our sending volunteers! Please stay tuned for further announcements about this new group, and for information about how to express your interest in joining!

With all that is new and changing, and our efforts to still provide excellent customer care to our applicants and parents, we also want to mention that we might not be as responsive as our team has been in the past. We want to assure you that we are working hard to address all questions and concerns that come our way, and we want to tell you how much we appreciate your patience with us as we manage these big things with our small team. Thank you for your continued efforts to support our study abroad applicants! We couldn’t do it without you!

Many thanks,

The Study Abroad team

Caitlin, Justin, and Adriana