The Shift to High School Exchanges

AFS's new mission began as an enriched Fellowship program taking place in the United States. A number of factors changed the form that it would take, beginning with the fact that under postwar conditions university students from abroad were not vying with each other to come to the United States.

 AFSIS Directory, 1947-1955


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U.S. State Department

The majority of the AFS drivers of World War I and a fair number of those of World War II had been recruited from prestigious Ivy League colleges. Many of these same drivers had attended the "feeder schools" to these colleges, the no less prestigious private "preparatory" schools. Piatt Andrew, for example, had gone to Lawrenceville School; Galatti to St. Mark's.

For many years, there had existed a small exchange program between a group of eminent English "public" schools (such as Rugby) and their counterparts in America, the private "preparatory" schools. In both cases, these were boarding schools, the exchanges "direct" between American and British groups and the scholarships consisting of room, board and tuition. These English Speaking Union exchanges involved some twenty students travelling in each direction. Two members of AFS's Board of Advisors had been involved with ESU: George van Santvoord, a WWI driver, member of the ESU Board and Arthur Howe, a WWII driver, who had himself participated in the ESU program.

When I came back from the war in '44, I was teaching at Hotchkiss where George Van Santvoord was headmaster. George had been one of Steve Galatti's close associates in WWI and through the years as a schoolman when Steve was at St. Mark's, and they both preserved a close association. George had been on the French Fellowships Board of Trustees. [...] And this question came up of how we should proceed with the so-to-speak post-WWII AFS scholarship fund. And several of us, George Van Santvoord and myself amongst them, developed this notion that we might think of shifting from the university to the school.[...] George van Santvoord was interested in it, because he'd been a schoolman all his life, and had been on the executive board of the English Speaking Union exchange program. [...] I was interested in it, because just before the war I'd come back from a year in England, which had been an enormously impressive year to me that had shaped a lot of values. [...] And George Van Santvoord was the guy who talked me into going, instead of starting Yale when I was 16. And I had one of the great years of my life in terms of a kind of personal fulfillment, breadth of experience, active involvement in a lot of things. That's what led to my going back and serving with the British during the war.

Arthur Howe, transcription of an interview, AFS Archives, New York, pp 1-2.

George Van Santvoord

The initiative, however, came from Paris from where one of Galatti's contacts had telephoned with the news that he had three French high-school-age students ready to go to America.

Steve Galatti was a trustee of St. Mark's and said, "I will take one here." And George Van Santvoord said that he would take one at Hotchkiss. And I agreed to get in my car, which I did the next day, and go into Westchester County and find a high school that would take one. I recall going into the backyard of the superintendent of schools in Pleasantville. [...] He was mowing his lawn that afternoon and I interrupted him and went through this weird dance of telling him that I represented the American Field Service and that we were bringing some students over here, and could we have one in the Pleasantville High School. And by God, this man said "yes"!

Arthur Howe, ibid, pp 3-4

One thing led to another:

The plan was to continue on the college and graduate-school level as before the war, and 22 of this first 50 were selected on this basis, some aided by scholarships arranged by former ambulance drivers. But the rest, the majority, were preparatory-school students. George Van Santvoord (SSU 8-3), the Headmaster of Hotchkiss School and President of the National Preparatory School Committee, had suggested in February 1947 that the schools of his committee were prepared to give scholarships (tuition, room and board) to a selected group of teenagers. The idea was that, as much good as was done by bringing the older students here, still more might be accomplished by bringing the younger. As very little of this sort had been done before, no one could quite guess how it would turn out.

George Rock, History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York: Platen Press. 1956.

In the United States, the post-graduate, university student is autonomous, installed in personal housing, sometimes with spouse and children, concentrating on his or her intellectual specialization. The college student is more integrated into the group life of the school, living in dormitories, eating in mess halls and participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports. The "prep" school student is but a younger, less independent version of his college counterpart. From this point of view, the direction AFS was taking was obvious: bringing the visitor more and more into the thick of things. However, it could hardly be said that the "prep" school environment was representative of mainstream America!

At the end of their school year, the students went on a 24-day 6000 mile bus trip that provided them with a larger view of the United States. Through the good offices of Elinor and Carl F. Zeigler, the Greyhound Bus Lines had donated the bus and the services of the driver for the tour, which took the students from New York to the Rocky Mountains, then south through Texas to New Orleans, and thence back to New York by way of Washington, D.C.

"I said that I thought they had seen too much of the East," said Bill Hooton. "They had not seen the Middle West, they had not driven into the South, and they had not seen any of those places. And we had something like fourteen days for this trip; so we started planning how we could get them to all of these places. Dot [Field] was absolutely marvellous with this. She began to make contacts; Steve started making contacts with all the Field Service men of the First and Second Wars who lived in all the places where we were going. We all got involved in it. And I said I would like to have them stop in my little farming town in Indiana--- called New Carlyle. [...]

"It was real mid-America farm country. [...] And there were something like two or three hundred people there, all over the farm, on the lawns and so on. And the young people had a marvellous time. I put them all in the houses around the village. This changed the outlook of that whole little town, because they'd been very isolationist, very anti-European, very nervous about foreigners, and this opened it up. It was what we were trying to achieve --- to build as broad an experience as possible."

W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.

The bus trip was another example of AFS's inspired genius! Not only did it provide the participants with a memorable end-of-program experience, concentrating in a few days the essence of AFS internationalism, but it also brought AFS to the attention of a greater public!

In the summer of 1949, the High School in Elkhart, Indiana, which had heard of the International Scholarships as a result of that year's bus trip, asked if it could have two foreign students the following winter. The student body raised the necessary funds, and the two foreign students lived as members of families in the community. This, too, was an experiment.

George Rock, History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York: Platen Press. 1956.

AFS had found its new field!