I went to Thailand through AFS from 2009-10 and it was a life changing experience. My host family to this day calls me their daughter, keeps in contact with me, and even sends me cards every once in a while. I honestly could not have asked for a better experience. What someone else said is true, it is a volunteer organization. But because it's volunteered based usually the people that are involved are there because they want to be. Some students did have a bad experience, and I myself didn't get along with all of the people and teachers that I met. But I met people from all different kinds of program (YFU, Rotary, etc) and there were always a couple students that had a rough time. I found that many of the students that had issues didn't talk to the AFS office about it. The students that did changed host families and had amazing experiences. Since it is a volunteer organization there are some hiccups along the way (miscommunication about train arrival times was my biggest one) but the volunteers I met were genuine about taking care of the students. I honestly hope my nephews can get the chance to go when they're in high school.
My AFS exchange after high school was a life-changing experience that greatly broadened my perspective and contributed to my study and career choices later in life. For this reason I do donate to AFS. The application and interview process was thorough and they seemed intent on only sending kids abroad who were prepared for the experience. Thinking back on the kids who were on my trip, they were all very capable, psychologically robust people. I was sent information about my prospective family and about the country I was to visit before the trip. AFS was able to make a last-minute switch for me when it turned out that I couldn't go on a trip that was leaving on the day I was taking a test that couldn't be rescheduled. They also provided follow-up experiences. While my experience was good, on the way back I did learn that a number of my fellow exchangees had not had good experiences. Several of the females and one male had been used primarily as babysitters and househelp. Some complained that they were not taken out and given experience with other local youths and were denied trips around the area. I hope AFS has done more to improve education and recompense of host families so that this sort of thing will not occur.
Review from CharityNavigator
This program's quality is limited to the quality of the volunteers. If the volunteers are great, the experience is great. If the volunteers are not--the experience can be a horrible experience for your child. Paid staff will not honestly evaluate a complaint or acknowledge any kind of a problem with the program in any way--even if their is complete and absolute proof.
Review from CharityNavigator