During World War I, young Americans served overseas as volunteer ambulance drivers in the American Field Service (AFS), transporting the wounded from the battlefields and helping to liberate concentration camp survivors. When they returned home, they founded the AFS Association to promote peace through international student exchange, known today as AFS Intercultural Programs. The AFS Fellowships program ultimately funded 222 university students to travel to and from France and the USA for advanced graduate study by the time it was discontinued in 1952. They knew what we also know: today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.
AFS was reactivated at the start of World War II by Stephen Galatti, who had been an AFS ambulance driver during WWI. By the end of the war, 2,196 volunteers served in France, North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, Germany, India and Burma, carrying more than 700,000 casualties. In 1946 AFS volunteers from both World Wars assembled in New York City to discuss the future of the organisation. Under the leadership of Galatti, they launched a secondary school student exchange program that they hoped would maintain and strengthen the international friendships they fostered during their wartime humanitarian work. The first AFS secondary school students arrived in the USA in 1947 on a scholarship program.
In 1971, the AFS Multinational Program began, allowing students to travel to and from countries other than the United States. The AFS Programs continued to diversify over the years by adding community service projects and teacher exchange programs, and the number of participating countries rose steadily.
AFS in Australia
AFS Australia is one of over 50 AFS offices around the world. We are the leader in intercultural learning and offer international exchange programs in more than 52 countries around the world through AFS run and facilitated programs, each of our destinations with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board.
AFS has been exchanging students throughout the world for over 52 years here in Australia, and over 60 years worldwide. That’s over five decades in Australia and six decades worldwide of history and experience in international education with an exemplary record of safety, security, and service to students, parents, and educators.