Earlier this year, AFS world-wide network was introduced to the new AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum. The document provides a clear and coherent structure that includes all the major non-formal learning touchpoints for exchange students from the moment they learn about AFS programs, through their experience abroad, until they return home and are invited to become AFS volunteers.
Inviting our program alumni to become our volunteers is the last step described in the Journey, and it is also a specific challenge for AFS Hungary. In AFS Hungary, a significant number of active volunteers is between 15 and 17 years old, and therefore many of them decide to study abroad with AFS and start their Student Learning Journey with 2-3 years of volunteering experience. They are usually among the most active and hardworking volunteers of their local chapters, they have contributed a lot to AFS, and they really enjoy what they do.
We knew that this special position they are in requires additional preparation and support. It might sound hard to believe, but one of the biggest challenges we faced was convincing these young people to suspend volunteering while they prepare for and participate in an exchange program.
Instead of making an abrupt change and asking these young people to simply stop volunteering when they apply for an exchange program, we introduced additional steps to their Student Learning Journey.
We have already implemented some of these steps, while others are still being shaped and perfected in AFS Hungary. There is an obvious need for countinous review and discussion and as an educational organization we feel compelled to provide these additional learning opportunities to our volunteers.
Have you had similar experiences in your AFS organizations? Live a comment below or contact us at education[at]afs.org, and we will be happy to exchange ideas with you!
This post was written by Gabor Csikos, Organizational Development Coordinator and Trainer for AFS Hungary. Gabor is also a Qualified Trainer for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program.
Hello Gabor, really interesting ideas! In BFL we have a small, but potentially groing group of people who go on trimester program, sometimes also volunteer at their return, and then inscribe for year program. I find the rituals and the room for becoming a participant again rather than a volunteer, inspiring. A challenge we identified, was that being a former pax and volunteer, these people are already familiar with workshops of the preparation track.