This article contains:
- Information on opening a door at a school
- Sample conversation starters with school-related individuals
- Once you have started a conversation with a school
- How a relationship with AFS adds value to schools
- How to convince a school that AFS will bring value
Opening a door at a school
Developing meaningful, mutually respectful relationships with schools can sometimes seem daunting. Some schools are happy to have community partners that support the work that they do. Others are cautious about forming partnerships because they want to maintain neutrality when there are multiple organizations vying for their attention.
If you are going to be introducing yourself to a school that is unfamiliar with AFS, and you don’t have an existing relationship with anyone in the school, please keep the following things in mind:
- Look at the school's website and check out their mission/vision statements. Are there references to creating “global-ready” students, preparing students for an ever-changing world, or even statements that include a reference to the 21stcentury? All of these indicate that global and intercultural learning should have a home in their school and curriculum.
- Next, try to find out if there is a school board policy on exchange students. This will give you some insight into various things about the school. Does their school board establish the policies or does the high school administrative team determine the policy? This will determine the flexibility the building staff have to expand on or change their current practices regarding hosting exchange students.
- Use the school's website to see what languages are offered to their students and see if you can tell if the languages are offered at the middle school or elementary level as well. This will help you connect what AFS has to offer to their world language department. It will also indicate whether you can reach out to the middle school teachers to do school presentations since it’s better to plant the seed with students early about studying abroad (and hosting too).
Sample conversation starters
Below are examples of conversation starters for existing schools that have had some exposure to AFS, as well as schools that may be completely new to AFS.
- To any school employee: I’m so excited that your school is hosting ____________ this year from ____________. Have you had a chance to meet him/her? He/she shared what a great discussion transpired in _____________ class last week.
- To an educator: Have your teachers about Project: Change yet? It’s a resource for educators to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals with their students in class. Then the students can use that same research/work to apply for scholarships to go abroad and see the part of the world they studied! Here’s some information about it.
- To an administrator or school counselor: Thank you for supporting student exchange in your building. It’s great to engage with a school that understands how hosting students helps promote a diverse and inclusive school environment. Supporting your students to go abroad also promotes this and we have multiple scholarships for diverse student groups to ensure that our programs are accessible to all students. I’m happy to drop off some brochures to pass out to your students.
- To a club sponsor: You have such a diverse group of clubs and activities for students here. Is there a club fair each Fall where students learn what options are available to them? Would there be interest in an international club where students who want to gather and share/discuss cultures and current events or even gather and share new foods? I’d be happy to help get one started.
- To the club sponsor of a Gay-Straight Alliance or LGBTQ+ Club: I’m so proud that your school is supporting LGBTQ+ students through this club. AFS also feels strongly about supporting LGBTQ+ youth. I’d be happy to come to your next meeting and share some scholarship opportunities with this club that are specific to students who identify as LGBTQ+.
- To the club sponsor of a Black Affinity Group: I’m so proud that your school is supporting diverse student populations through affinity groups. This is so important to support young people of color. AFS-USA has a group for students of color and I would be happy to come to a group meeting and share information with them to ensure they know about their options for going abroad with scholarships!
- To a world language teacher: AFS-USA has a portion of their website dedicated to educators. This includes information on a project that allows language teachers to connect their students to other classrooms in other countries so students can communicate around the UN Sustainable Development Goals. That sounds like a great way for students to connect to speakers of French that you teach. I can email you with the teacher information page if you’d like to learn more.
- To any educator or counselor: AFS-USA does a lot of activities with students around conflict resolution, personal bias, communication styles, and learning how to look at a new and different situation without judging/stereotyping. When is a good time throughout the school year for me (or another volunteer) to come back and meet with some student groups to walk through an activity or two? [It’s always great during a beginning-of-the-year retreat, with freshmen while upperclassmen are taking the SAT, during state assessment time when kids’ brains are stressed from testing, or on the days before a long break from school.]
- To a counselor or graduation coach: There are quite a few scholarships for students to go abroad for a few weeks, months or the school year. Is there a College & Career Fair for the school soon? I would love to help students explore all of their options for the summer and beyond. An international experience can help students really focus in on what they need to improve upon in the language class and have experiences to write about in their college essays.
- To student writers/journalists: I read your article in the WHS Lantern about Election Security. Nice work! Have you thought about writing about the exchange students’ impressions of your school and community? It might be a cool way to introduce them to the rest of the student body since they have a different educational background and perspective. I’d be happy to introduce you to Punyee who is here from Thailand this year.
Once you have started a conversation with a school
Now that you have established a relationship with someone at a school, you can begin to learn more about their hosting policies if they aren’t already posted on the school’s website. (Try not to ask questions that are posted on the website.)
- Is there an established policy regarding exchange students? I couldn’t find one on your website and I would like to learn more to ensure the families and I are making things as easy as possible for the school.
- Do you hold an Intercultural Festival or International Opportunities Fair to expose the community to hosting and study abroad opportunities and allow former/current participants to showcase their experience?
- How many exchange students are accepted each year?
- Do you accept from a variety of programs or only AFS?
- What is the process for acceptance of an exchange student?
- How have things gone in the past? Encourage them to share successes, achievements, and challenges.
- Who makes the final decision on accepting an exchange student?
- Have students gone abroad from this school?
- Have students won scholarships to go abroad from this school?
- Do teachers actively sponsor trips abroad with students? Where?
- Are any teachers AFS/exchange returnees (alumni)?
Please, be sure that you take the information you learn about the school and update Global Link so others will have access to the same information. Visit the School Information in Global Link section to learn more about updating school information.
How a relationship with AFS adds value to schools
AFS Students add value to schools by:
- Creating global citizens.
- Providing the entire academic community with free intercultural education.
- Sharing their enthusiasm.
- Exposing their classmates to diversity that challenges U.S. students.
- Giving presentations within the school district to all students (K-12) to broaden the perspective of U.S. students.
- Helping U.S. students learn that there is more to their world.
- Contributing diverse ideas to class discussion.
- Naturally adding to curriculum by broadening awareness of geography and cultural diversity.
- Introducing multiculturalism.
- Indicating importance of world awareness and cultural understanding for life skills, employment for the future “small world,” college admission.
- Making a great topic for essay questions on scholarship applications after U.S. students have hosted an AFS student or have been an AFS student.
- Teaching local students much more about the world and its cultures.
- Stimulating interest in other students re: learning foreign languages, studying abroad, etc.
AFS Volunteers and Staff add value to schools by:
- Providing lesson ideas for teachers to infuse global ideas and themes into their standards-based curriculum to engage students.
- Supporting all students interested in hosting or studying abroad through numerous orientations to prepare them with intercultural skills.
- Being available to support exchange students and their families so they don’t create a burden on the counseling team.
- Working alongside teachers to share experiences, stories, artifacts, etc. from around the world to expose students to global ideas and perspectives.
- Supporting school staff in local international festivals/fairs/events to ensure the community learns and embraces diversity as models to the students.
- Modeling inclusivity for students and staff to see regarding students of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
How to convince a school that AFS will bring value
How can we convince schools that AFS is a valuable resource for them?
- Work with local colleges on their outreach to the schools. They want broader experiences in their students.
- Ask returnees to give presentations about their experiences or to become teaching assistants in language classes.
- Respond to California state standard 10.ll re: globalization by having AFS students do guided (by AFS Volunteer, to make sure they meet the demands of the standard) presentations to world history classes.
- Show schools that we’re the best organization by:
- Offering diversity
- Providing complete and timely information
- Consistently providing excellent support to students, families, and schools
- AFS Clubs or boards at schools (AFS International Club)
- AFS presentations to school board meetings
- Opportunities for AFS students to go to “career day” or open house
- Consistency of AFS programs in community and schools
- Guarantee that we DO support our students and families
- Local volunteers
- Bringing the world to school for free!
- Network with other educators who already know the value of intercultural exchange.
- Ask schools what resources they need from us to allow us to help them.
- Submit AFS items for the school newsletter.
- Ask school marketing class to make an AFS video to play for student announcements and/or on the school website.
- Remind them that we have a volunteer based, committed support system.
- Identify school “gatekeeper” and extend effort to keep in regular contact. Thank them regularly!
Check out Securing School Approval for tips on getting a school to agree to take an AFS Student – and what to do if a school says “no” to accepting an AFS exchange student.