Go and live the American Dream on the largest continent in the world!

The USA is a diverse country, ranging from hot deserts to freezing mountains. You may find yourself living on the sunny west coast of California with its amazing beaches and famous theme parks (Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios), or experiencing the winter wonderland of New York on the east coast, Or, you may end up living in the Midwest or Seattle, home to grunge music and Microsoft. In this land of baseball, cheerleaders and American football, your time will be dynamic and exciting.

People & Culture

A common expression to represent the United States is that it is like a “salad bowl” because it contains a mix of different cultures, with a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Climate & Geography

The USA is the third biggest country in the world, divided into 50 States: 48 contiguous states, plus Alaska (northwest of Canada), and the Hawaiian islands (in the Pacific Ocean). Hawaii is the only American state where AFS does not place students.

Due to its large area, the climate and geography varies throughout the country. For example, the coldest place in the USA is Barrow, Alaska, with an average temperature of -25°C in the middle of winter, while the hottest place is Phoenix, Arizona, with an average of 40°C in the middle of summer. You will find a great variety of landscapes, climates, and lifestyles.


Perhaps best known for its fast foods such as burgers and pizza, you will also be able to try what might be called traditional American food, such as barbecue, hotdogs, clam chowder, and apple pie. But American cuisine has many influences, depending on what part of the country you’re in, such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Greek – even in the smallest town. You are sure to find something to your taste!


The USA doesn’t have an official language, but English is the one used by the government and a large proportion of the population. As many different cultures can be found in America, many people speak another language at home. Spanish is the most common language after English. Even if your host family does speak another language in the home, English will be the language required for school and everyday life.


In general, the American school year starts in August or September and runs until May or June. A typical school day starts between 7.30 or 8.30 am through to 2.00 to 3.00 pm, often with an extra activity after school such as sport, theatre, robotics, photography and more. Sport is the most popular after-school activity, such as American football, soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and cheerleading. The sporting competition is very important and brings together school and family.

Host Family

Due to the ‘salad bowl’ of cultures in the USA, your host family could be African American, Hispanic American, Asian American or descendants of a variety of European nationalities and ethnicities. In general, the children in the family are expected to follow the rules, help prepare meals and do other household chores as requested. Something to keep in mind is that most AFS students will be placed in a small town, in a rural or suburban area where public transport may be limited, so communication with the family to plan any necessary transportation will be important.

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

AFS provides comprehensive orientation for all students and families before, during and after your exchange – AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you the whole way through! In-person orientation camps in New Zealand and your host country are supplemented by our world-leading online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to develop essential global skills, learn intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. Find out more about our educational expertise here!

Explore the Programmes Available in United States