Embarking on the Student Learning Journey in Brazil

AFS Brazil office received the news about the new AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum with a lot of excitement, but also with a lot of concern. The AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum outlines how AFS can deliver more meaningful learning experiences to students before, during and after participating in an AFS program and it also strengthens AFS's credibility as an educational organization.

AFS Brazil already had lots of educational programs and plans for students in place, and we wanted to use the new Student Learning Journey to improve our practices. What the best way to do this is was the big question we had to answer. After carefully studying the document and our existing materials, we created a plan for the students embarking on their program in August 2016. 

The main improvements we introduced were in how we communicate with exchange students from Brazil or students coming to Brazil, as well as in supporting our volunteers who work directly with host families and hosted students. We wanted to make sure these contacts were seized as learning opportunities with a structured educational approach, rather than simple logistical information.

Improving how we support exchange students in Brazil

The students who spend their AFS exchange program in Brazil receive letters from the AFS office during their experience with some logistical information; as well as to help them feel comfortable to reach our office. Starting this year, we will send them letters with additional content based on some of the activities suggested in the Student Learning Journey for them to do them with their host families. If they need any help, they can connect with their support volunteer. Basically, we will use one tool we already have in place to put some of the activities in practice.

Enhancing regular contacts with volunteers

Our volunteers are very good at keeping regular contact with exchange students and host families, supporting them throughout their experience. To help them add an educational component to these contacts, each month we e-mail our support volunteers with an educational activity they can do with the exchange students. We also regularly organize webinars where volunteers can learn more about the AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum, ask questions and clear doubts. This is a great opportunity for different departments in our office to work together and make sure we have a unified approach with our exchange students and with our volunteers.

Refining the preparation of Brazilian students

On top of the letters we already send to the exchange students with logistics, safety and insurance information, we decided to add some more with an educational purpose. This is a great opportunity for us to already start talking about intercultural learning. Therefore, we added some contents about the studies by Betsy Hansel and the Acculturation Model by Y.Y. Kim (See Intercultural Learning for AFS & Friends for more information).

Our next step now it is to, of course, follow up with this project to improve even more for the next cycle of students. At AFS Brazil we are taking the Student Learning Journey as an opportunity to really position AFS as an educational organization. So far, we have been having a really good feedback from the support volunteers working in this new project.

 


This blog post was written by , Intercultural Learning and Training Responsible for AFS Brazil. Fernanda is also an International Qualified Trainer for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program.