Most schools recognize the term “diplomat” or “diplomacy” as the person or action of promoting dialogue and understanding between countries. With a few exceptions, it would feel out of the ordinary to have a diplomat show up on the front steps of a school when they consider that a diplomat is the designated official or an individual of higher status than their community members. There is, however, a type of diplomat that fits right into the fabric of a school community: a citizen diplomat through public diplomacy.
AFS-USA has published a blog post about this to help you learn more about how our students that go abroad serve as citizen diplomats and engage in public diplomacy abroad, but the same holds true for exchange students that come to the United States. This concept is a considerable part of AFS’s foundation and mission. It is from exchange students that host families, educators, and students learn about the world through the words, actions, and ideas that these exchange students share…especially over the course of a year, and in many cases, a lifetime. Student voices can be quite powerful in promoting mutual understanding with their peers because of their common age and shared experiences while on an AFS program. The exchange students can be quite engaging in conversations with their host families as they approach their questions about behaviors and vernacular with innocence and curiosity. Educators welcome this type of diplomacy because it provokes deeper thought and perspective-taking, allowing the educator to serve as facilitator and the exchange student as the deliverer of information.
To help AFS-USA volunteers and staff share this idea of student diplomacy with some official backing from the United States government, here is a copy of the letter that is attached to the Participant Acceptance Form (PAF) that schools sign when they agree to allow an exchange student to come to their school. In the past, we have not broken this letter out as a separate document, however, it is a great statement updated annually to help schools understand that this practice is both long-standing throughout the United States and a welcome choice by schools. We hope having access to this letter and further details about people-to-people/public diplomacy helps you build stronger relationships with school leaders moving forward.