Our Story

The EIL/AFS* Ireland story began in the early 1900s in the shadows of the World Wars with a desire to avoid any future wars.  Our founders believed that peace and understanding could be built through intercultural exchanges. We were pioneers in developing intercultural learning methodologies and in the use of experiential learning to cultivate global competence. We continue to build global peace and understanding through international secondary school exchanges, cultural immersion opportunities and a series of citizen-to-citizen exchanges across the world.

Our Vision / Mission / Values

Our vision is “a just and tolerant world where all cultures thrive together in peace.”
Our mission is “to provide intercultural learning experiences that enrich lives and inspire global citizenship.”
Our core values of integrity, diversity and passion are the stars that guide us.

Our Call to Action

To foster transformation that will last a lifetime. Today’s exchange participants are tomorrow’s change-makers: diplomats; thought leaders; teachers, parents; influencers in the international business and non-profit communities. Every new participant is another global citizen in progress—an individual primed to help build a more just and peaceful world.


Experiment in International Living (EIL): The EIL story began between the two world wars when a group of students sets sail across the Atlantic to Switzerland, France, and Germany with the mission of fostering peace through getting to know their European peers. Over time EIL organisations developed in 40 different countries around the world. While the core activity was building peace through youth exchange, activities for older retired adults were also developed in association with Elderhostel (now known as Road Scholar). The United Nations Secretary-General designated EIL a Peace Messenger organization in the 1980s.

EIL arrived in Ireland in 1964 and is now recognised as an educational charity. Whilst primarily welcoming international students to spend a secondary school year in Ireland, EIL has also developed expertise in providing educational programmes for older adults through the Road Scholar lifelong learning programme. EIL Explore was established in 1994 to provide scholarships for Irish participants to travel abroad. Since then hundreds of Irish people from all backgrounds have had fully funded intercultural learning experiences around the world.

AFS Intercultural Programs

AFS began as a volunteer ambulance corps created during the first world war and continued to operate through the second world war. In 1946 The American Field Service Ambulance Drivers (also called AFS) was transformed from a wartime humanitarian aid organization into a ground-breaking international secondary school exchange, volunteer, and intercultural learning organization with a bold mission: to help build a more peaceful world by promoting understanding among cultures. Nowadays the mission of AFS has evolved around three specific goals: (1)  develop active global citizens; (2) globalize schools and institutions; and (3) expand access to intercultural learning. In 2019 before Covid-19 struck there were 60 different AFS National organisations supporting 11,800 year-long study abroad participants, 9,010 host families and 50,000 volunteers across the world.

EIL / AFS Ireland
In 2018 both organisations formed a unique partnership in Ireland under the EIL/AFS Ireland flag. The missions of EIL and AFS are aligned although both organisations developed separately. By matching the strong educational and youth focus of AFS, with EIL’s experience of working with lifelong learners, a dynamic new educational not-for-profit organisation emerged. Our organisation is underpinned by the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the understanding that intercultural competencies are key skills in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world.