The AFS Learning Journey Curriculum is attached below. It outlines the importance and function of orientations for AFS-USA.
Why do we do Orientations?
They are mandated
AFS provides participants with information to prepare them for their exchange experience both prior to and upon arrival. Participants attend a pre-departure orientation in their home countries, receive a welcome guide, and attend an arrival orientation in the U.S. These materials and events cover the subjects required by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) and the Department of State (DoS). AFS goes beyond the CSIET standards and DoS regulations by also providing participants with a post-arrival, mid-year, pre-return and end-of-stay orientation, in accordance with AFS-International (AFS-INT) standards. These orientations address intercultural learning, cultural adjustment and safety topics.
They are supportive
Orientations are facilitated by specially trained AFS Volunteers and Staff, who help U.S. students to prepare to go abroad, as well as help international students to constructively process and deepen their AFS experience. AFS volunteers and staff view themselves not only as guidance providers, but also as co-learners alongside the students in the AFS experience.
They are immersive
The core of AFS’s intercultural learning opportunities for students are exchange and study abroad programs. It is not just a matter of living with a host family and attending a local school. To become active global citizens, students require support, encouragement and skills training to make their experiences, meaningful intercultural learning opportunities, all of which are provided during the Orientations. Research demonstrates that this is much more likely to be achieved when students receive state-of-the-art pedagogically designed Orientations before, during and after the exchange.
They are non-formal:
The structure and learning activities of Orientations enhance the exchange experience through a non-formal, goal-based, developmentally designed education program. Orientations consist of progressive learning activities and discussions that encourage students to continually examine their own world views, explore alternative outlooks and adjust their perspectives, mindset and behaviors accordingly.
They are experiential, enhanced learning:
AFS puts students at the center of the developmental process, guiding and supporting them along the way. At Orientations, students are taught how to learn from and “make meaning” of their new life using tools to help them reflect and analyze their experiences in a structured way. They are then encouraged to experiment and adjust their behaviors based on insights gained and continue the cycle of learning.
They are compliant and standardized:
Scheduled group Orientations before, during and after the AFS experience provide students with the knowledge, coping strategies and skills needed to have a meaningful intercultural experience. Guidelines for these orientations are included in the AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum. This curriculum is designed for use throughout the global AFS Network to ensure the quality and consistency of AFS exchange and study abroad programs that is delivered by multiple volunteers and staff in the sending and hosting countries.