In the spring of 2015, the American Ambulance Field Service (AFS) will be 100 years old.

AFS was created in Paris in the spring of 1915, thanks to Abram Piatt Andrew, as an organization of ambulance drivers and stretcher-bearers during the First World War. Thousands of young American college students (including Julien Green, Louis Bromfield and others) promptly signed up and travelled to France to help the wounded at a time when their country was not belligerent.

The contribution of AFS volunteers was so appreciated that, at the end of the war, the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau gave a lecture tour in the United States to raise funds and secure a future for the organization.

And AFS went on, developing the first student exchange program between France and the United States in the twenties and thirties: the Fellowships for French Universities program.

During the Second World War, AFS reactivated the volunteer ambulance service in the wake of the allied troops in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers of all nationalities, at the price of numerous fallen ambulance drivers.

As early as 1946 AFS decided to resume the exchange programs. After a brief period dedicated exclusively to programs for college students, AFS introduced, for the first time in history, exchange programmes aimed at high school students, who were to be hosted in a family and a school for an entire school year. Today AFS student exchanges involve 12,000 students from more than 60 countries each year.

The EU Comenius project and many other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, which in recent decades have come to understand the importance of student exchanges, in fact, drew inspiration from the AFS programs.