A New Approach to Pre-Departure Orientation

A New Approach to Pre-Departure Orientation

In the past year, the roll-out of the online component of the AFS Student Learning Journey , along with impacts of COVID -19, led AFS-USA staff, and members of the Orientation Advisory Workgroup, to examine and recalibrate the information outbound students receive, when and how.

The following is a summary of our new approach to the Pre-Departure phase of orientation at AFS-USA, which is intended to maximize the benefit of each experience to all stakeholders by breaking up the information to be conveyed into more manageable chunks and delivering it in a way more conducive to the content at hand.

AFS Program Prep Webinar
The Program Prep Webinar will continue to be run by Study Abroad staff in April and focuses on what year and semester program participants can expect between the time of application and departure. During the webinar participants are introduced to the “nuts and bolts” of preparing to study and live abroad. Topics covered include COVID-19 considerations, the program fee and finances, strategies for obtaining academic credit and fundraising, the host family experience and travel. (Summer program participants will be invited to attend a version of the Program Prep Webinar more tailored to their specific program.)

Local/National Pre-departure Orientation

Conducted in late May-June, the local Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) introduces outbound participants and their parents/guardians to how AFS operates in the local community and provides the opportunity for them to speak with others who have participated in an AFS program previously, and their family members. The content is focused on setting realistic expectations, sharing hopes and concerns, brainstorming coping strategies, the AFS Support Structure and intercultural learning tools such as the D.I.V.E. model.  Participants will have the opportunity to attend a national, virtual PDO, if one is not offered by volunteers locally. Stay tuned for My AFS News for a schedule of National Virtual PDOs to take place bi-monthly in June, July and August.

The Pre-Departure Orientation section of Help and Learning contains two new presentations for 21-22; one for a virtual PDO and one for the in-person PDO, which volunteers can download and adapt to their context. All core participants and all semester and year CB, YES and NSLIY participants should be invited to your local PDO. 

Online Pre-Departure Orientation Module

In NH21 we are implementing a new, mandatory Online PDO module for all AFS participants before they depart the US, that compliments the local PDO. It is a self-directed course that covers the history and mission of AFS, AFS rules and expectations, adjusting to life abroad, and safety and support while on program. While all teams are still expected to offer their local PDO (virtually or in-person), and students to attend it, or a national level PDO, the Online PDO module will become the method of demonstrating compliance with AFS and CSIET standards regarding pre-departure orientation. The module will be launched for all participants in early June and in future cycles, it will be incorporated into the application/acceptance process for outbound participants.

Online Component of the Student Learning Journey

The AFS Student Learning Journey is the framework for helping participants achieve the AFS Learning Objectives, also known as the AFS Superpowers, and in turn, to become active global citizens who play an integral part in achieving the AFS Mission. The online component of the Student Learning Journey is a blended learning course for core semester and year program participants that allows them to begin the international aspect of their experience, with fellow AFSers from around the world, while still at home! 

 The online component of the Student Learning Journey consists of self-directed learning modules, activities, videos, quizzes, and a reflection forum. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to connect with each other in real-time during a series of webinars before, during and after their program.

AFS partnered with the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy to develop modules focused on achieving social impact. Participants will have the option to enroll in an advanced course and to receive a Certificate in Global Citizenship for Social Impact from the School of Social Policy and Practice at UPenn.

Later in May, Semester and Year Program participants will be invited by staff to attend a global kick-off webinar on May 29, They will be joined by  their counterparts from around the world and they will be enrolled in the online component of the Student Learning Journey beginning in early June, and once accepted by the hosting partner.

We hope that this new approach to the Pre-Departure phase of orientation will better prepare our outbound participants for the Study Abroad experience and allow local volunteers to focus more facilitating relationship building with and among their Study Abroad participants and families.  Thanks to all volunteers who help prepare our outbound participants and their families for these efforts and for your patience and feedback as the new materials are being rolled out!