Travel Update Sent to Current Host Families from AFS-USA President, Tara Hofmann

Travel Update Sent to Current Host Families from AFS-USA President, Tara Hofmann

The following message was sent to all current host families:

Dear Host Families,

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you continue to do to help your AFS student feel supported and cared for during these difficult times.

As you know, AFS International, the governing body of 50+ AFS organizations worldwide, made the difficult decision to shorten students’ programs. This means that the students who can travel at this time are returning to their families in their home countries. Nearly 300 students who were being hosted in the US have been returned to their families within the last week. Some students have already returned, some are in the process of returning, travel arrangements are being made for others, and some students will be unable to travel at this time. Those who cannot return will remain on program with their host families.

During the first part of this week, we are focusing on returning students home who are from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Iceland. There may be additional countries able to depart this week if circumstances change and we will do our best to give you as much notice as possible.

Later this week, we will begin the process of returning students who are from the following list of countries:

Belgium (BFR and BFL)
Costa Rica
Hong Kong
Indonesia (non-YES)
New Zealand
Tunisia (non-YES)
Turkey (non-YES)

Please understand that the return of additional students this week will depend upon whether domestic travel in the US and international flights to their home countries can be arranged.

Returning students home to their families will continue in the weeks ahead. This is a long-term process. For example, we have just been informed that arrangements we had hoped to make this week for students from Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Latvia, Peru, and Slovenia are not possible now. The best estimate is that travel will remain impossible for the next 2-3 weeks because there are restrictions on international travel into those countries.

For students who may be departing this week:  
Field staff are already in direct contact with students and host families from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Iceland about their return travel and will continue to share travel details with those students and families as soon as travel is confirmed.

AFS partner offices are booking travel and, in some cases, are communicating directly with hosted participants regarding their flight information. It is possible that the students may find out their return travel information before you do.  

As travel arrangements are confirmed, AFS-USA staff will be reaching out to host families and students to confirm they have received the student’s travel information and e-ticket.

Host families are being asked to drive their student to the domestic departure airport, or to the international departure airport if they live close to the international airport. If the host family is unable to do so, they will be asked to reach out to their AFS volunteer liaison or to other volunteers in their team in order to make other arrangements, such as carpooling.  

On the day of the student’s departure, we ask that whomever is driving the student to the airport wait near the airport until the student’s flight leaves in case there are any last-minute cancellations.

It is not possible at this time for us to know the luggage restrictions for the individual airline your student may be flying on. If there are questions about current airline luggage restrictions, please check the airline’s website.

Please understand that given the complexity of and demand for individualized travel arrangements that change on a moment’s notice, it is not possible for AFS to provide the immediate help often needed by traveling participants who miss flights, or their flight is canceled. Situations rapidly change. For example. there may be circumstances where an airport might shut down temporarily. We are working with AFS Volunteers who live around the airports where AFS Students are transiting to help provide guidance by telephone and to help students navigate possible next steps. This has been helpful to students because local AFS Volunteers have specific information because of their personal knowledge of the city’s airport. There are cases where AFS Staff and Volunteers cannot be on site in airports to personally guide students and help them in person. We are making every resource we can available. Your hosted student should know, in advance, that it may take different people to help them get where they need to be, and that they must always keep their phones on and available. There is no such thing as over-communicating in situations like these.

Once again, in the event that it is not possible for a participant to travel, AFS-USA will continue to provide support until it becomes feasible for the student to return to their family in their home country. AFS Staff and Volunteers will remain available to assist all students who will remain with their host families until return travel is secured.

In closing, there are people who agree with the decision to return students to their families, and people who do not agree. This goes for everyone connected with a hosted student. The AFS community is an outstanding one that cares deeply and reaches throughout more than 50 countries. Every situation is different. Every students’ travel arrangements are different. AFS International made an unprecedented decision to shorten students’ programs believing it is in the best interests of AFS students. The times we are living in, regardless of where we are in the world, will remain uncertain not for days or weeks, but for months that lie ahead of us.

Thank you to all of you who continue to do the very best you can to care for your AFS student.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Thank you,

Tara M. Hofmann
President & CEO