The New Field

For the ambulance drivers of both world wars, service on the battlefield had certainly been a powerful, "life-changing" experience, (albeit one restricted to men). It was a complete experience: the medical component speaking to the nurturing, female aspect of the psyche and the military to the structuring, male aspect. The university fellowship experience, by contrast, had been generally limited to "masculine", intellectual concerns, leaving the rest to chance. But the high school community matrix, with family at its center, brought the AFS experience back into balance plus, one might say, "feminizing" the service. The men had brought AFS home to their families!

AFS's new mission had the advantage of involving everyone in a common enterprise: host families, host schools, host communities could become participants by the same token as visiting students. Now the Good Samaritan would "step out of his path" by opening the doors of his home to the Passing Stranger. The hosting form of AFS would thus be governed by the age-old myth of Hospitality. In this tradition, the Visiting Stranger is always potentially a Celestial Being in disguise ----an angel, the prophet Elijah, Jesus---- testing his hosts, but at the same time bearing secret wisdom from worlds beyond.

 

Leaving the Past Behind

But AFS could not seize this opportunity to continue its work under a new form without the backing of a support matrix. Were fervent supporters of a wartime ambulance service abroad now ready to "march to a different tune"?

After all, the Association had been devoted to the driver perspective and, after WWII, shared quarters with the AFSIS offices, running a "clubhouse" that lasted in fact only a few years, as there were not enough patrons in the New York area to keep it going. Many drivers rallied around Galatti, backing his efforts to reorient the Service. At the same time, those who could not or would not make the shift were left in the wake. Galatti simply did not have time for them. New developments in the student exchange programs were so compelling that tales of past glories on the battlefield quickly paled by comparison.

AFS's total commitment to its new mission left the Association to wither away on the vine, eventually becoming no more than a legal entity on paper --- AFS, Inc.---- for the protection of the Field Service name.

With the past past, a number of drivers and a traditional means of generating support faded into the background. It had been the Association's function, as stated in its charter, to perpetuate the collective memory, to keep friendships alive, to promote mutual understanding and fraternal feelings... in many ways: through reunions, through the publication of a Bulletin, by cooperating with the Programs, by creating an information/ assistance network, by holding conferences with AFS speakers, by providing hospitality to visiting AFS'ers.

The New York Office did the best it could. In 1956, George Rock published his History of the AFS, 1920-1955. For many years, the newsletter, Our World, was published. Rosters of program participants were maintained, as in American university Alumni departments. AFS began to create a new network of regional or high school committees and national organizations abroad. Nonetheless, in thus constructing a new support matrix, AFS was creating the conditions for a total confusion between field and support matrixes. In any case, the "coordinating office" could not devote itself full time to these activities. The increasing success of its exchange programs were leaving it less and less time to carry out the functions of the dormant Association.

With the disappearance of the Association and an inability to maintain its functions, AFS lost a means of generating a powerful support network of former participants, over and beyond that minority willing and able to become involved directly in the American Field Service International Scholarship programs.

 

The Merging of the Matrixes: Hidden and Visible Assets

As a charitable organization, AFS had always appealed to friends, foundations, corporations and to the general public for financial support. It would continue to do so.

At the same time, families and communities assumed the cost of hosting visiting students as well as contributing towards AFS's overall operating expenses... so they could have the opportunity to do so. Later, families from the same communities would also help to defray overall operating expenses to the degree that their participation fees might exceed actual travel costs.

In this way, AFS's new service became progressively self-supporting, carrying out its work through financial donations, participation fees... and volunteer contributions of all kinds: on the one hand, visible assets; on the other, hidden assets. In its role as "support matrix", the community channelled funds through AFS's operational bookkeeping. At the same time, as a "field matrix", community contributions remained unaccounted for in financial records, either because they were "voluntary" by definition, or in fact incalculable. (What is it worth to become a member of someone's family?) Being quite aware of this, the merging of these two matrix functions left AFS with a somewhat ambivalent, if not cavalier, attitude towards bookkeeping: it was first of all in the "business" of promoting "mutual understanding and fraternal feelings" among people of different cultures.

 

The High School Program Takes Off

1950 was a key year in the development of AFS's new mission. Heretofore, AFS had only able to finance a modest number of exchanges. Galatti was operating on a shoestring budget with a staff largely consisting of unpaid or underpaid women. The money from the U.S. State Department for the program for German students was going to prime the pump allowing the high school programs to develop and eclipse the college programs.

Other high schools heard of the experiment in Elkhart and were eager to enter the program in 1949-1950. It worked so well that the U.S. State Department, which was already co-operating by helping to screen the applicants abroad, asked AFSIS to outline a teen-age program for Germany. After consultation, the State Department accepted the AFS scheme and under its terms 111 German students were brought to the United States in 1950-1951.

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

The High Commissioner's Office in Germany was looking at the problem of a generation of German kids who had been conditioned in certain ways that seemed risky for their future positive contribution to the world, and there was a feeling that if some portion of the leadership of that youth group could see another side of the world, it might be a constructive factor in the whole reconditioning of Germany.

To AFSIS it was a tremendous shot in the arm, because everyone came at cost basically, and for the first time we had a large source of support for our overhead here.

Steve would raise money, enough money to get the kids here, (he'd use every penny he had to get kids here), and that left no money to rent space, to pay people. Almost no one, if anyone, on the staff was paid at that time. And amenities were at an absolutely unbelievable minimum. This was part of Steve's dedication and drive --- to put every penny into another student.

It's hard to realize the significance of that State Department grant in giving us a little leeway to begin to do some things, shall I say, properly.

Arthur Howe, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, AFS Archives, NY 1991

 

The End of the University Exchanges

Of the 108 other AFSIS students that year (1950-51), 82 were in preparatory-schools and high schools. Only 26 were in college, and the following year that part of the program was discontinued. This was not what had been planned in 1946, but the growth had followed a need felt not only by AFS but by the communities that were willing to sponsor the students.

(...)

In 1951 the AFS Fellowships for French Universities, seeing the success of the AFS International Scholarships, voted that its annual funds be allotted to AFSIS for its French teenagers.

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

Thus ended the AFS university experience. In the light of AFS's new perspectives, the granting of scholarships for graduate school study abroad no longer served its purpose adequately. Already in 1947, Galatti had written:

I believe that we should think about the purpose of these Fellowships and whether they are fulfilling our aims to the best advantage, for discussion at the October meeting. First, are we sure that graduate Fellowships are the best means of furthering friendly relations between our two countries? Second, would the funds at our disposal go further at a lower educational level?

These two questions have been in my mind since the AFS enlarged its international scholarship scope, because I feel that the graduate student is more tied down by his work, and therefore less able to mix with fellow students and others. He is more interested in his career in the future which may not be useful in bringing about what we are after.

Stephen Galatti, Memo to Executive Committee, Oct 2, 1947, AFS Archives, New York

There were other university scholarships now, such as the Fullbrights (today still managed by the Institute of International Education), to take up the slack. The Franco-American Commission, a bi-governmental agency, was founded to inform students of opportunities for advanced education on both sides of the Atlantic. From 1919 to 1952, 222 university students, 48 of them French, had benefitted from the French Fellowships. They were the pioneers of the AFS exchange programs.

In 1955 it was voted by the membership of AFS and the French Fellowships to absorb the latter into the parent body for the greater success of the teen-age program.

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

For the aims of AFS, the younger age-group was certainly more appropriate. As the Institute of International Education reported:

"Persons who come to the United States as teenagers or undergraduates may adjust more easily and undergo greater changes in their attitudes as a result of the sojourn than persons who come here as graduate students already well started in a career... There are several reasons why this kind of relationship to age and career might be expected. The younger person is probably less firmly rooted in established habits. He or she is more likely to be pursuing general studies and participating in the social life of the host country --- conditions presumably leading to greater immersion in the host culture --- while the older student is apt to be engrossed by more demanding specialized training. And the older person is more likely to be more firmly anchored at home to family and to professional commitments."

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

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