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641 S St NW Suite 200


Alumni Portal for Natural Parents

Welcoming Home Your Child

Re-entry to the United States from a country abroad can be a difficult process, and everyone handles it a little differently. It will be very exciting to see your child after long months abroad, so let them know how much you missed them. Try not to be too overwhelming, though. Your child needs to take time to culturally adjust back into their routine.

Tips to provide your child with a healthy and successful re-entry environment:

  • Show eagerness to hear their stories from abroad. They will have so much to share as they journey back home. And as a parent, you are the perfect listener. They’ll share challenges, heartfelt moments, life-changing experiences, and humorous stories with you.  Be open and ready to listen to all!
  • Ask questions about their experience to show them that you are curious and interested to learn about the culture they lived in. It might be strange to switch roles and actually learn something from your child instead of the other way around, but it is an excellent opportunity to deepen your relationship and develop your own understanding of the world.
  • Keep an open mind, for they may have changed their perspective on some ideas. Try to understand where they are coming from.  You can agree or disagree with them – either is fine, as long as a mutual understanding and respect is present.
  • Regarding their host family, keep in mind that they may refer to their host parents as “mom” or “dad.” Try not to take this label personally – you still have a special relationship with your child that can never be replaced.
  • Provide your child with returnee resources if they are having a difficult time adjusting. There are plenty of books and blogs written on this topic. Below are some helpful starting suggestions:

An Inside Look!

The best way to take in advice is to hear it from someone who actually went through this experience. Jeanne is not only a parent to two daughters who went on an exchange trip with YFU, but an exchange alumna herself as well as a 35+ year YFU volunteer. Her advice is valuable, heart-warming, and reassuring.

Coming home after the exchange is full of conflicted emotions. Happy to see family and friends whom you missed, sad to leave new family and friends...never knowing when you will see them again. And it is so hard to explain what the experience meant or how it impacted. Most people want to hear "it was wonderful" but don't care too much about the details. And how do you explain the sense of accomplishment of doing something small like buying bread by yourself, or dreaming in a foreign language, or learning to laugh at yourself when you know that everyone is staring at the American who doesn't know how to do something "right."  So coming back to "real life" so to speak, and people expecting you to just pick up where you left off, is so difficult and near impossible to do. As parents, it is important to acknowledge their growth and accomplishments even though you weren't there to see it. To not expect exactly the same child you sent away. A new and improved version who is more confident, which frankly is a challenge sometimes to the fine balance of family life.  The "road" they were on may have altered, be it what they want to do after high school, or what their interests are, or even who they want to hang out with. Being accepting of who they are post exchange, being willing to listen to yet another "when I was in Sweden..." story, support them in their new interests and life goals, and understand that while they have more people to love and appreciate in their life, they don't love and appreciate you any less.

College Resources for your Child

Your child just came back from their exchange program—but how do they utilize their experience in the professional and educational world? As you can imagine, an abroad exchange program has essential non-formal educational aspects. This is important because your child has gained skills that are not readily available in a traditional high school environment.

A compilation of recent studies [1] published by Intermundo in October 2015 has revealed the personal skills gained by high school exchange students that help them stand out to admissions advisors and employers. These skills can fit into two categories: personal competences and intercultural competences. As your child goes through the process of applying to colleges, scholarships, internships, and/or jobs, remind them to highlight their strengths and talents that are so essential in the professional world.

Personal Competences

  • Acquisition/fluency of a foreign language
  • Independence and self-confidence
  • Personal responsibility and efficiency
  • Greater self-esteem
  • Increased ability to approach external viewpoints
  • Self-decentralization
  • Can integrate other perspectives into their own thinking
  • Increased psycho-emotional maturity  

Intercultural Competences

  • Intercultural sensitivity
  • Intercultural social contacts
  • Knowledge of host country
  • Openness to foreign cultures
  • Decreased fear of intercultural encounters
  • Reduced prejudice
  • Weaken stereotypes
  • Tolerant of differences
  • Open to meeting new people and foreign countries

[1] These studies include the Educational Results Study (Hammer, 2005), the AFS Long Term Impact Study (Hansel/Chen, 2008), Students of Four Decades (Bachner/Zeutschel, 2009), and the Impact of Living Abroad Project (Geeraert, 2012). (

Extending your YFU Connections

Don’t let your experience with YFU be over once your child returns home. There are an abundant amount of opportunities that allow you to share your child’s experience, hear about others’ experiences, and make a difference in the YFU community!

Becoming a host family, a YFU volunteer, or a financial contributor/donor can be a way of giving back and expressing gratitude for the many opportunities your student has had. It also allows you to stay connected to the cultural exchange experience.

Host an International Student

Welcome an international student in your home by hosting them in their exchange experience. You and your family will get the incredible opportunity to share your culture, stories, and traditions to a student who is eager to learn about American culture. There are plenty of program options, so you have the chance to choose one that fits your family best!

Benefits of being a host family:

  • Share your story, traditions, and customs while learning about others
  • Experience what it’s like to have another son/daughter
  • Get exposed to a different culture and country
  • Learn a new language
  • Expose your school and community to the world
  • Appreciate your own family, country and culture
  • Be a catalyst in making us citizens of one world

Program options to choose from:

  • Traditional Academic Year and Semester Students: For 65 years, YFU has welcomed high school students (ages 15-18) to live with a host family and attend a local high school. Today, nearly 2,000 YFU high school students come to the U.S. each year from more than 70 countries. Through hosting, you will expand and enrich your own family while sharing your own, unique customs and traditions with a new son or daughter.
  • Academic Year Scholarship Winners: Each year, YFU welcomes scholarship winners from several US Government sponsored programs. Learn more about welcoming one of these future leaders into your home.
  • Two Week Summer Programs: Get ready to experience our American Independence Day as you never have before; from the eyes of an international student eager to learn as much as they can about US culture. From June 30 to July 18, 2016, students from multiple countries are will be in select US cities. Learn more about this unique opportunity now.
  • Community College: Would an older student (17-23 years old) be a better fit with your family? If so, please visit our Community College hosting page to learn more and find a listing of our current Community College locations.

Experience the special moments of intercultural exchange:

After hosting a wonderful girl from Japan, three years later we decided to host another girl but from Finland this time. Four days after she arrived, our Japanese daughter returned for a two week visit. Which made for four teenage girls in the house! They laughed, and bonded, sang and played games, and shopped for four matching sister bracelets. We decided to do a family portrait with all of us, and I treasure that picture and the memories to this day.

- Jeanne (YFU Volunteer and Host Parent

Become a YFU Volunteer

Continue supporting YFU’s mission by becoming a volunteer!  Becoming a volunteer allows you to connect with other YFU friends and participate in a globally aware and diverse community.

  • Volunteering at YFU opens up a world of opportunity – you can become a part of an international family for the first time or renew cultural connections through our global network.
  • YFU offers volunteers a chance to meet and engage with like-minded people who share your interest in the broader world.
  • YFU volunteers are the vital link between students and families and the YFU network worldwide – providing a safety net of support.
  • By volunteering at YFU, you could change the course of an individual life.

Volunteer Positions

  • Area Representatives (AR) - This key volunteer position supports one or two international students, their host families and high schools. The AR serves as an unbiased advocate for the student, offering guidance and support to the student, family and school through regular contact with each participant. Most YFU volunteers serve in this position.  It is a great way to build relationships and experience the world from your own home!
  • Area Coordinators (AC) – Do you love to lead and coordinate?  Be an AC and provide leadership and supervision for other volunteers in a specific geographic area as directed by the Field Director.
  • Study Abroad Volunteers - Spreading the word of YFU is essential—help us achieve this goal by becoming a Study Abroad Volunteer!  By helping out with recruitment, support, and/or administrative assistance, you can contribute personally to YFU by engaging directly with potential YFU Study Abroad students.  Working on specific projects such as reading scholarship applications, conducting interviews, and hosting presentations will allow you to make an impactful difference at YFU!
  • Trainers – Are you an excellent helper and teacher?  By becoming a trainer, you would provide basic procedural training and orientation to volunteers or program participants in partnership with the Field Director. They follow organizational guidelines and use standard YFU USA training and orientation manuals and materials.

Now that you’ve read about all of the incredible volunteer positions, apply here!

Consider Donating

A gift to YFU brings the world a little bit closer together. It:

  • Prepares students to work and lead in an interdependent, international economy
  • Results in increased tolerance.
  • Reduces violence and helps to eliminate stereotypes.
  • Promotes the understanding of cultural differences and underscores a sense of common humanity.

YFU needs your help to continue the mission of intercultural exchange – a mission that is vital as ever in our world today.

Get Involved with Local Schools

Schools are an essential part of the YFU experience and serve as a major venue for learning – both inside and outside the classroom – for students participating in international cultural exchange. Whether one of your students is studying abroad or you are hosting an exchange student, your school benefits, too.

  • YFU participation is a great way to introduce students to the global world, adding a broader perspective and bringing civics and social studies alive.
  • Exposing students to an “in-person” narrative combats stereotypes and enhances diversity.
  • The YFU experience is a good way to improve foreign language skills, an invaluable asset in a global economy. The entire classroom has the opportunity to bond with exchange students, giving everyone a chance to make the world their home.

Additional YFU Programs

You will soon realize – if you haven’t already – that the YFU program changes your child’s view on life. They come back a new person – one who is culturally more aware, more independent and responsible, willing to take risks, and tolerant of differences. Study abroad does wonders to a student’s personal development and growth. Universities and employers are increasingly look for applicants who demonstrate cultural knowledge, language proficiencies, and experiences abroad. 

Your student already exhibits an incredible culturally-aware skill set from their time abroad. But it doesn’t have to stop at just one foreign exchange experience!  Encourage your student to look into additional programs to enhance their cultural skills. Look to our website to find more information on additional programs, including youth programs as well as young adult programs.

In fact, seeing the positive changes in your child’s live might intrigue your interest in traveling abroad as well! It is never too late to start traveling.  Traveling invigorates the soul, no matter the age! Take a peek at our adult study programs to learn more about this experience of a lifetime.

Don’t forget about the YFU community grant!

  • $1,000 discount on program tuition
  • Available to volunteers, alumni, their children, and children of qualified host families (must have hosted or volunteered for at least 6 months prior to American student departure)
  • Can be awarded other merit-based scholarship in addition

Spreading the Word