Alumni Portal for Study Abroad Students
Welcome to the YFU Alumni family! You are now part of a network of over 50,000 Americans who have completed an exchange through YFU and 260,000 alumni worldwide. We're glad you're back!
Here are a few items to complete upon your return:
YFU students' exchanges have much in common, yet each is unique. YFU USA wants to know about your Study Abroad experience. Tell us about it using the survey found here, which takes about 15 minutes to complete.
By doing school and community presentations, you have the ability to show others how going abroad can change their lives! Remember, if you are a scholarship recipient you are required to do a presentation. YFU has a template created by a fellow alumna and Campus Ambassador; Misha. Please click 'File' and 'Make a Copy' to use it as a baseline for your presentation. Once your presentation is complete fill out the Presentation Form.
Swap out the pictures so that you can talk about what you did, where you went and what you learned. This is YOUR experience, and a chance to share stories with your fellow students who probably never imagined these exchanges are possible. Have presentation block? YFU will be hosting two presentation trainings in the Fall to help you prepare. Excellent communication skills are highly regarded by colleges and employers alike; so let us help you get a jump start! Please let us know if you need anything - brochures, flyers or posters might be of help.
Please give advance notice and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your estimated quantity and presentation date.
We know that returning home is full of adjustments and new experiences. Though you are happy to see your family and friends, you simultaneously long for your host family, friends and country. We are here to help! Register today for your Virtual Homecoming Orientation to talk with others who understand what you are going through, and learn about opportunities to help keep the exchange experience alive.
During this hour and a half discussion, you will:
• Share your experience with other alumni
• Integrate the experience overseas with the life you "left" back home
• Get tips on how to relate your experience to family and friends
• Learn about opportunities to get involved, and
• Build a support system among people who share similar experiences
Useful links to stay updated:
No matter how long you have spent abroad immersed in a different culture, there is no better feeling than coming back home and seeing your family. Unfortunately, it may take longer than you expected to adjust back to life in the United States, and accompanying this process may be feelings of frustration and anxiety. We want you to know that you're not alone when it comes to adjusting back to your original routine. In fact, these are feelings that exchange students experience more often than not. We want to assist you in every way possible by providing resources to ease your way back into the American culture.
Home Sweet Home
After months of being abroad, you finally get to sleep in your own bed, eat your favorite home cooked meal, and reunite with all of your friends and family. This is known as the honeymoon phase, as you are overwhelmed with familiarity and excitement to be back home. Try to take advantage of every opportunity to reunite with friends, family, and old traditions!
Reverse Culture Shock
Reverse culture shock is a common reaction to returning home from studying abroad. It's an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad. Feelings of loneliness and frustration are common. You may feel homesick about your host country, or like a stranger in your own home. While dealing with these feelings, it's important that you create an outlet for your emotions rather than keeping them to yourself. Try leaning on close friends and family who will be happy to support you with open arms.
“In the end what got me past the homesickness and the reverse culture shock was using the skills and talents I had gained while abroad. I used the experiences during my exchange year to be a YFU volunteer and representative, I spoke out about international education and ultimately became a particularly relatable host sister to an exchange student.”
-Misha (Campus Ambassador; Sweden 2013)
Share Your Story
One of the most common questions you will hear when you return home will be, “How was your time abroad?” or “So what was it like living in another country?” These are such broad questions, yet you've had so many adventures and experiences to talk about! How do you choose?
Your personal experience abroad is important. It allows you to share the knowledge you've learned and the perspectives you gained while living in another country. The best way to do this is through personal stories and anecdotes about your adventures, challenges, and growth.
Quick! "So, what was it like?"
You’re walking on the street or in the school hallway, and you bump into a friend who asks about your time abroad. You probably have less than a minute to describe to them your life-changing experience before you both have to run off to where you were heading in the first place. What do you do?
Pick out the most effective aspect from your time abroad. What impacted you the most? What do you value as the most important thing you learned? It can be as general or as specific as you like—from sharing the general uniqueness of the culture you lived in to describing a specific story that changed your worldview.
A few minutes for a summary
You’re standing in a long line at the grocery store, or maybe you have a few minutes to spare before class, and a friend asks about what it was like to live abroad.
In this situation, you have time to elaborate a bit. Whether you want to focus on the differences in cultures, the relationships you built, or the challenges you overcame, make sure to explain why these examples specifically proved to be life-changing for you. To capture people’s sincere attention and interest, try to tell stories that represent the main values you wish to share.
With time to spare—unload your experience!
You’ve scheduled a lunch date with a friend or have time to talk with family over dinner about your exchange experience. This allows for plenty of time to share what you have learned.
In this situation, feel free to tell your more personal stories—the challenging ones, the heartfelt ones, and the humorous ones. Just be careful to not overwhelm your listener. Try to make it a two-sided conversation in which they can ask you questions and throw in their input as well. Create an inviting environment in which travel and study abroad is portrayed as a mind-opening, life-changing experience that everyone should have the opportunity to experience.
Still itching to share? Try a blog!
One of the best ways to sort out your feelings during this time of transition is to write about it! Whether through an email chain to friends and family or an online blog, expressing yourself and telling your story can be liberating. To get ideas for blog posts, try reading through your travel journals or looking through your pictures. Relive your experiences and inspire others to become more globally open-minded—take advantage of this opportunity!
Send your blog URL to email@example.com to be featured on our site!
A Parent's Perspective
They too, are going through an adjustment with you returning home. You will be excited to share facts and experiences about your host parents and may refer to them as “mom and dad”. Be sensitive to the fact that your parents may be sad that you think of another person as your parent. They don't mean to misunderstand, but they were the ones who raised you, allowed you to choose to be an exchange student, financed your stay, and will always love you for who you are. Your host parents are still important to you—and the don't have to be devalued! Simply understand the situation your parents are in, and together create a mutual respect for your host parents.
The "Real World"—what comes next?
After processing, reflecting, and sharing your stories, you might feel under-excited—even bored—with what your family and friends might refer to as the “real world” or “normal life.” They might encourage you to get back into old habits and routines. However, you might find it helpful to find a new adventure, hobby, or project to fulfill your worldly interests once again. Your time abroad has truly changed your perspective on life and has sparked a new interest to learn more about the world. Maybe you want to learn a new language, or maybe you want to go continue traveling. Whatever it is, follow it passionately and continue to learn about the diverse world we live in!
A home away from home
Eventually, you will begin to feel comfortable back in the United States, but it may never feel the way it used to. You’ve now gained vital experiences and knowledge that have helped you develop into a globally-minded human being. You might identify yourself as a global citizen; having more than one home. As you incorporate your host culture into your daily life, your perspective between your host country and your home in the United States will become balanced and you will forever be a changed person.
Looking to add something unique to your resume? Depending on your location, YFU offers full-time and part-time internships, as well as the opportunity to represent us as a Campus Ambassador.
You've already experienced the program, now you can learn what YFU does behind-the-scenes. YFU interns learn about international service, cross cultural communications, community outreach and more. Contribute to our organization and participate in meaningful work that has tangible outcomes.
YFU USA interns are directly integrated into YFU operations and serve a crucial role in interacting with students, host families, and a network of dedicated volunteers across the country.
Qualifications/How to Apply:
We welcome students with excellent verbal and written communication skills from both for-credit and not-for-credit programs. This position is unpaid, but a travel stipend will be provided for in-person internships. Interns should be proficient with Internet and Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook).
YFU American and International Student Alumni are strongly encouraged to apply!
Campus Ambassador Program
Campus Ambassadors embody YFU’s mission and work on projects that increase exchange awareness for YFU. Not only do you get to work with a global-minded community, but you also gain experience and develop essential skills to advance your future career goals.
What are the responsibilities of Ambassadors?
- Student coaching and mentoring: As a student who has recently experienced the “ins and outs” of exchange, you will be paired with prospective students and help them navigate the application and scholarship process while providing tips about what to expect while abroad.
- Speaking Engagements and Events: “Tell Your Story” at YFU orientations, webinars, events, and conferences.
- Promote YFU through promotion of the CAP, Study Abroad, and International Student Programs.
- Social Media Outreach through the use of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share your own YFU story!
What’s In It for You?
- Learn about working at a globally minded non-profit while enhancing your personal and professional growth.
- Create videos, blog posts, and other work to be used for internal and external marketing campaigns.
- Enhance your public speaking, event planning, and communication skills.
- Participate in Special Events
- Build Your Resume
- You’ll be eligible for a strong letter of recommendation to help in your future job or university search.
- Through community activities and interactions with your fellow ambassadors, make new friends and connections across the country.
Your exchange may have ended, but your impact is just beginning!
Most importantly, we’ll support your professional growth throughout your entire journey with us. We are thankful for your contributions and want you to make the most of this experience. The program duration will be a school year and require approximately 5 hours per week. Applications for the 2017-2018 Campus Ambassador Program open in August.
Thinking about what to do after high school can be a daunting task—we’ll admit that. But we’re here to help you sort through your options so you can make an educated, informed decision about you future. Explore the abundant options your future can hold!
Have you ever thought about taking a gap year to explore the possibilities the world has to offer? Though the idea of “taking a year off” might seem scary and out of the norm, participating in a gap year program is a great way to pursue your passions, expand your knowledge, and discover yourself!
In fact, many colleges actually encourage students to take a gap year. Our world today is always bustling—compelling us forward to accomplish task after task. A gap year allows you—the student—to pursue your own interests and passions. College advisors often credit gap year students with being more confidant in their studies, engaged in their education, and ambitious towards their goals. The YFU gap year programs are designed to enrich your global knowledge, develop your language and communication skills, and cultivate your understanding of modern education and learning.
Nearly all colleges allow students who wish to take a gap year to defer their enrollment and/or reapply the following year. Some of the more prominent advocates for gap year programs are Harvard College, Princeton, and the University of North Carolina.
Here are some options through YFU:
- Netherlands (up to age 18)
- Paraguay (only age 18)
- Poland (up to age 18.5~)
- Slovakia (up to age 18)
- Sweden (up to age 18.5~)
- Canada (only age 18)
- Germany (only age 18)
- India (up to age 18)
- Italy (only age 18)
- Latvia (up to age 18)
- Lithuania (only age 18)
All programs include:
- Placement with a carefully selected host family
- Preparatory materials
- 24-hour student support
- Regional orientation for participant
Whether you're a high school senior or studying at a university, YFU offers powerful, life-changing gap year programs. Visit our young adult program site for any additional information and to browse the many options a gap year can offer you—from internships, service learning, and volunteering abroad!
The Right College for You
Searching for a college can be overwhelming. First thing to remember is that not all schools are created equally. All schools are accredited either regionally or nationally. You will then want to look at the statistical data on admission rates, graduation rates, programs of study, opportunities available for internships, etc. But don’t get too overwhelmed! Believe it or not, this process can be fun! You get to discover what you want from a learning environment by assessing your needs, wants, and interests—the first step in becoming a successful, independent adult! Follow this guide to get through the college search smoothly.
Familiarize yourself with your wants & needs:
Select five to seven different colleges or universities to explore. To do this, ask yourself a series of questions:
- Where do I want to attend college—how far do I want to be from home?
- What kind of environment do I want to live in—traditional college campus, urban city, or somewhere in between?
- What size of school will I feel comfortable calling my home—one with a large student body or one with a more small-knit community?
- What do I want to study—specifically OR generally?
- Does this college offer courses on the language I would like to study? (You can gain credit from your exchange experience in order to test out of language requirements in College!)
- Will I want to study abroad during my college career—if so, where?
- Do I know what level of education I need to be successful in my chosen profession? Can the college/university provide a full education or will I need to transfer for graduate school?
- What does this college have to offer in terms of scholarships, grants, social engagement, and quality academics?
Weigh these options closely because you could be fulfilled academically but not personally, or vice versa. Just because you are a school fan does not mean that the school can meet your needs.
Narrow it down
Think about your passions, interests, and goals. Do you want to be involved in theater, or sports, maybe music? Does the school offer everything you want for your college career? Now being a YFU alumni, will you want to study abroad again? More and more, Americans are pursuing their education on foreign soil—whether that is for a summer break, a semester, a whole year, or even longer.
Some colleges have international campuses abroad in which students can directly enroll in classes. Here is a list of some of the colleges and their foreign campuses that offer this opportunity (but if you do your research, there are countless more!):
- New York University (New York, NY) – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Shanghai, China
- Boston University (Boston, MA) – Brussels, Belgium
- Emerson College (Boston, MA) – Kasteel Wall, Netherlands
- Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) – Tokyo, Japan; Rome, Italy; Oviedo, Spain
- American University (Washington, DC) – Dubai, U.A.E.
- Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) – Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; China; Panama City, Panama
- Loyola University (Chicago, IL) – Rome, Italy; Beijing, China; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO) – Madrid, Spain
Similarly, nearly all schools provide their own and additional programs to study abroad. Browse these provider programs to see if your school permits their exchanges:
Finally, think about the organizations you might want to be a part of outside of the classroom. Most colleges have language clubs, but many are starting to highlight clubs that promote multiculturalism. If the college you choose doesn't have one, take the initiative to start one you identify with on your campus!
- AIESEC, developing the leadership potential of youth through experiential learning, volunteer experiences and professional internships
- Chinese Undergradudate Student's Association
- Muslim Student Association
- Native American Student Association
- Organization of Latin American Students
- Students Promoting Interracial Networks
Visiting a college can make a world of difference when it comes to making your final decision. The atmosphere and vibes you receive from the campus/student body are extremely important and you should trust your gut instinct. After all, you are going to live there for the next few years of your life—it should feel like home!
Most colleges provide campus tour information on their websites. Simply visit their admissions site and register for a time to tour the school.
Once you have a few in mind, the only step left is to apply! It sounds simple, but a lot of time and hard work go into this last step. You should be prepared to:
- Look up each school’s application deadline (early and regular) and write them on your calendar/planner.
- Make a list of all the requirements you need from each school. Keep in mind that some schools might differ in what they ask of you. Some prefer ACT scores while some prefer SAT scores—so be sure you know which test, or both, that you need to take.
- Pay a non-refundable application fee
Applying for college can be overwhelming. How do you portray your best attributes and accomplishments to an admissions officer who only has the chance to get to know you through writing? Colleges and universities recognize the uniqueness of a student who studied abroad while in high school.
College Essay Tips
If you are wondering how to condense months worth of travel into one short essay, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started.
Step 1: Personal Reflection
It’s important to think about how this whole experience started in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions, and jot down some ideas.
- What made you want to experience studying abroad in High School?
- Think about how you prepared for this experience and what your expectations were. How were your expectations met or not met?
- What goals did you set for yourself before you traveled abroad?
- How did you achieve those goals? Or how did those goals change over the course of your travels?
- What passions and interests were you able to continue and pursue while abroad?
Step 2: Personal Development
Studying abroad is a a unique experience for everyone. Think about how you may have changed or stayed firm in your beliefs through this process.
- How did you enhance problem solving and critical thinking skills while abroad?
- How were you able to adjust to other cultures?
- How did you adjust to your home abroad, as well as your return to the United States? What personal mechanisms did you use?
- How did you overcome challenges, and how did they strengthen your leadership skills?
- What steps did you take to become more independent, without parents, siblings, teachers, and coaches to fall back on?
Key words to think about: open mindedness, communicative, flexibility and adaptability, strong sense of self, a widened perspective, global understanding, self-reliant, etc.
Step 3: Tie it all together!
Once you have brainstormed how the experience impacted you, it is important that you connect this experience to your future experiences. Did this opportunity help you discover a new passion? Consider new ideas for a future career path? Prepare you to be a successful student or employee?
- What can you contribute to your college/university of choice because of your time abroad?
- Will you want to take advantage of more study abroad opportunities, mentor international students at your college/university, join an international club, etc.?
- How do you think that your study abroad experience can assist you personally with your studies?
- Maybe before traveling you would have been less inclined to take international politics or geography courses, but now you can complete these courses with passion and enthusiasm!
Additional Helpful Tips:
- Don’t restate your college transcript or primarily focus on your academic achievements as a student.
- Don’t be afraid to write a personal essay that captures your unique personality.
Choose references who know you personally and/or professionally. Overall, teachers, coaches, managers, and mentors are all great people to think about asking for a recommendation. Just allow ample time for your reference to write the letter, and be sure to send them a thank-you letter after!
During your time abroad it is likely that you acquired foreign language skills. Whether you have basic proficiency, conversational skills, or complete fluency, you have the opportunity to acquire credit and/or test out of language requirements at your selected college!
To do so, be sure to contact your college’s admissions office to inquire about the process.
Make sure you put the same effort forth for scholarships as you did for the college itself. There are a variety of scholarships available for students based on their grades, studies, study abroad country, and diversity.
- American Field Service/Rotary Overseas/Youth for Understanding/U.S Citizens Living Overseas Scholarships are open to students who have had a study abroad experience for at least one semester during high school. The scholarship is also available to U.S. citizens who live overseas as expatriates and study in high schools with American-type high school curricula. Students must submit an essay discussing their international experience.
- Award: $20,000 ($5,000 per year)
- The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study and intern abroad and the regions where they go.
- The Gilman Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is open to U.S. undergraduate students who demonstrate high financial need.
Scholarship Search Engines
- As the organization behind the SAT and AP exams, College Board upholds high standards for the scholarships they allow on their site. This site is especially helpful because the scholarships apply to a broad area of interest and application rather than institution-specific scholarships.
- College Net is a website that hosts student forums based on various topics of the college application process. Each week, whichever student receives the most votes for leading an interesting forum will be awarded a scholarship of $3,000-$5,000. This site gives you the best of both worlds: to easily gather information about the college application process while simultaneously getting the opportunity to win scholarships!
- As its name suggests, Scholarship Points is based on a point reward system. The more points you collect—by simply reading blogs, taking quizzes, playing online games, and performing other daily activities—you become eligible and gain access for more and more scholarships. It’s definitely a fun and unique way to search for scholarships!
- Fast Web, Scholarships, and Scholarship Monkey are all enormous scholarship database sites that constantly receive updates on newly available scholarships.
Employers are always searching for people who embody intercultural awareness and understand the increasing diversity of our world. You learned essential innovative skills during your time abroad that will help you stand out in a pool of applicants. Here are some helpful tips to write a successful resume!
- Mold your study abroad experience to fit your personal interests, ambitions, and career goals
- Make connections between your travel experiences and what you want to accomplish
- Include skills/characteristics acquired from study abroad experience such as:
- Language proficiency/fluency
- Cross-cultural communication
- Financial responsibilities
- International knowledge/awareness
- Ability to cope with failure
- Realistic Expectations
- Open Mindedness
- Sense of self
- Tolerance for differences
“When I applied for jobs, I was able to highlight my previous cultural and language experiences” -Jordan Burns (Brazil, 2008)
Basic Resume Template
Careers in International Education
There are plenty of long-term opportunities for you to continue down this path of cultural awareness.
“While nothing is set in stone, there is always some reassurance and confidence that comes from having a general idea of what you want to be. Building a global community is a lot of work, but the characteristics that I have gained through YFU make the task seem all the more realistic and attainable.” - Misha (Campus Ambassador 2015-2016; Sweden 2013)
College Majors to Think About
- International Affairs
- Global Studies
- Asian Studies
- Latin American Studies
- Middle Eastern Studies
- African Studies
- International Business
- Language Studies
- Religion Studies
- Economic Development
- International Development
- Peace Studies/Conflict Resolution
- Political Science
- Urban Studies
Where could you be working?
- Federal and State Government
- Foreign Service, US State Department, Foreign embassies, the Peace Corps
- Government Agencies
- Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, US Department of Defense, US Agency for International Development
- Non-Profit Organizations
- International Organizations/Institutions
- United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund
- Nongovernmental/intergovernmental Organizations
- Private Sector
- Travel Industry
- Public Relations Firms
What types of job positions could you hold?
- Foreign Service Officer
- Trade Specialist
- International Relations Officer
- International Lawyer
- International Au Pair
Teaching English Abroad
A great way to combine work and travel is to work abroad as an English Teacher. Becoming qualified to teach English as a Foreign or a Second Language can provide lasting and supportive assistance for landing a job in the future.
- The most popular programs include TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA
- Most of these programs are an intense, month-long course taught in various countries overseas
- Many provide support for accommodations as well as the job search afterwards
- The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for U.S. citizens
- Through international exchange and foreign language education, the organization aims to foster ties between Japanese and foreign youth.
- Bachelor’s degree to apply (all majors are welcome)
- Knowing Japanese and/or having a keen interest in Japan helps
- If you are interested learn more on their website: jetprogramusa.org
Career Example from Alumni, Jordan Burns - Summer Brazil Program 2008
Path of Studies
- Bachelor of Arts in Biology with Minors in International Health Studies and Comparative Religious Studies
- Applied for and received a David L. Boren National Security Education Program Scholarship to fund a year of study (Portuguese language and global public health) in Brazil.
- Master of Public Health in Global Epidemiology with a certificate in Socio-contextual Determinants of Health
- Spent a summer practicum working at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) in Brazil on a study about parental acceptance of the HPV vaccine.
- Global Health Fellows Program II
- Masters-level intern with the U.S. Agency for International Development
- Worked on the malaria case management team within the Bureau for Global Health in support of the President’s Malaria Initiative
- Currently working in Angola to support the USAID Mission’s malaria program
Valuable Tips from Jordan
- Make it a priority to search for study abroad funding opportunities for college.
- Seek out researchers working in different parts of the world to collaborate with during graduate school.
- Highlight your previous cultural and language experiences when applying for jobs.
“Not only did my YFU experience provide me with an amazing opportunity to experience a new culture, but it provided me with the courage to pursue educational and professional interests outside of the United States.”
From all of us at Youth For Understanding - Welcome Home!