My husband and I always wanted to be exchange students but the opportunity never really presented itself. One day while at our local YMCA we were presented the opportunity to host an exchange student. After about 45 minutes of chatting, we took the plunge & before too long we were looking at potential students to come live with us.Read More
Some of our favorite moments from the 2017-2018 YFU USA program year.Read More
For those families who have considered an exchange opportunity, do it! You will quickly realize the world is smaller than you think and that we are more similar than different from one another. Hosting a student is an opportunity you won’t regret with life-long memories made for everyone involved.Read More
YFU was the beginning of my lifelong love of travel, which continued at Stanford-in-France and in my career as a journalist and international media trainer. Except for my dad's service in World War II, I was the first person in my family to travel overseas since our ancestors came from Europe. The YFU experience literally changed the direction of my life because I was able to experience possibilities beyond the boundaries of my home country, community, and upbringing.Read More
Today, YFU celebrates the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.Read More
The YFU experience is an open invitation to you. The opportunities are there. It is up to you to make the most of it.Read More
During the year, YFU will highlight several celebrations of world religions. Today, Muslims around the world start Ramadan.Read More
Today is International Day of Families, and we wanted to share how one YFU Host Family has expanded because they opened their hearts and their home to an international student. If you'd like to share your story and traditions while discovering a new culture right in your own home, sign up to host with YFU today!
Guest post from YFU Host Mom, Karen Auxter.
Family means embracing others who share no blood, but who entrusted their child into your care.
It means broadening your horizons, learning about differences and realizing being different isn't a bad thing.
Family is finding out how much you are alike, even though you live on different continents and might only be able to communicate through smiles and hugs.
Family isn't always about sharing ancestors....sometimes it's just about sharing Love.
Interview by YFU Alumnus and Campus Ambassador Ronak Gandhi with YFU Field Director, Host Mother & Area Representative Kylie Neidich
Why do you believe that study abroad programs are not only beneficial, but also crucial for the youth of tomorrow?
I believe that our youth are often unaware of the cultural differences, how different every country is, and I think that studying abroad can help them further in life. It also looks great on college applications and applications for jobs because of that experience.
What was your motivation for volunteering and hosting with YFU?
I wanted my own children to learn about other cultures, while also getting to share our own. We love being able to share the kitchen with our students, as they teach us dishes from their own country. Believe it or not, I am the pickiest eater, but I have changed my eating habits due to my exchange students. When we moved to Texas we were the only family who hosted and I hated that our student couldn’t interact with others, so that got me more involved with volunteering. I’ve helped in planning events and in the growth and expansion of my field!
How has hosting a student impacted you and your family?
We have tasted food from other countries that we would have never been able to otherwise try, and my kids have been introduced to several languages including Thai, French, Swiss, and German! We gain so much through hosting. It truly is life changing.
Can you share some of the best memories and unexpected surprises from your hosting experiences?
The best memories would be watching them grow into sports that they may never have played before (esp. when they end up going to state championships), taking them to professional games, visiting the Alamo, and enjoying new holidays together. I don’t believe I’ve ever had unexpected surprises. YFU has been so VERY supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better organization.
I learned how to be more independent, how to face challenges alone, and how to be strong in situations that can make me feel really weak. I learned how to convert my weakness into strength, and yes, I learned never to give up.Read More
The following entry is submitted by Ankita, a YFU exchange student who spent six weeks in Japan on a Japan-America Friendship Scholarship.
I didn’t worry much about my exchange in Japan until a few days before my departure, when I paused to think “Oh. I’m going to be staying with complete strangers for six weeks.”
I was terrified.
YouTube became my temporary solace–I began to binge-watch as many “host-family experience” videos as I could find, and eventually stumbled across the horror-story portion of the collection. These videos showed me just how much could go wrong in one exchange experience, and my unease skyrocketed.
To address my numerous concerns, I scrolled through countless “homestay experience” blogs and even completed a homestay tutorial online. I also spoke with a few fellow YFU-ers, who reassured me that my host family wouldn’t reject me right off the bat (in fact, they had volunteered to host an exchange student!!) Despite this, I continued to wonder if I’d be able to get along with my host family, or if there would be friction between us due to the language and culture barriers. Indeed, how could I live for six weeks with people I'd never met before? How long would it take to be treated as a family member–if it ever happened?
Thankfully, these worries were short-lived; I was immediately welcomed into the family. Everyone was extremely supportive–they listened attentively to my broken Japanese and offered help whenever I paused to grope for a word. I was startled at their kindness and constant attentiveness to my needs. I began to appreciate the small interactions we had; even playing cards with my sisters or having dinner as a family of five made me incredibly happy. I felt like a bumbling and culturally-unaware youngest daughter, but a daughter nonetheless.
I didn't want to take my family’s kindness for granted, so I made a conscious effort to observe my family members and adjust my behavior to adapt to their lifestyle. Applying the things I had learned in my “research” impressed my family; my host dad told me that the family had worried if the homestay would be a failure, but I sat in “seiza” (a formal Japanese way of sitting) and passed food with the opposite ends of my chopsticks, things Japanese people don't usually do. They laughed about how I was “more Japanese than an actual Japanese person,” and were reassured.
With effort from both me and my family, I was thoroughly assimilated within a few days. I almost got too close to my host sister–we had baths together and slept in the same bed almost every day. Although I observed that my family members didn't show much affection, I installed a system of “oyasumi(good night) hugs,” which everyone loved. My grandmother once commented, “when Ankita is here, the house is bright and warm,” which was really touching.
Leaving broke my heart. My host sister, mom, and me all wept for almost an hour–it was absolutely heart wrenching. My host sister made me a collage of memories we made over the month-and-half, and I cried several more times by just looking at it. Six weeks had truly passed in the blink of an eye. I was touched by the kindness of my family, and felt blessed that I had been given the opportunity to meet such incredible people.
My experience taught me a lot about myself and Japanese culture, and I couldn't be more grateful. I visited my host family the next year for a mere five days, but they sent me home tearful and present-laden regardless. A year apart had done nothing to affect our relationship–in fact, it had strengthened it, as we exchanged text messages, postcards, and gifts that revealed parts of our lifestyles that we were unable to share during my six-week exchange.
Homestay may seem daunting, but it probably will be one of the best decisions you'll make. By placing yourself in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people, you'll learn how you deal with conflict and adapt to change. Cultural misunderstandings are inevitable, but all it takes is the right mindset to overcome them. If you're plagued with worries before your exchange, keep in mind that your host family is looking forward to learning from you as much as you are from them. They also may be as stressed as you are–it's up to them to give you a great experience. As for language and culture differences, have no fear; with time and effort, you can surpass any language or culture barrier. Language, indeed, is one tiny knick-knack in the toolbox of communication, and has no influence on your potential to make lifelong bonds with others.
“We are former United States Ambassadors to countries across the globe. While we may differ in political ideology, we write today united with one voice to ask that the Senate and House Appropriations Committees support full funding in fiscal year 2018 for the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,” wrote the ambassadors.
“In the countries where we have served, we have seen exchange programs help draw emerging political leaders closer to the United States, provide international scholars with critical information and contacts they need in America, and strengthen the appreciation of our country by exposing hundreds of thousands of people to our culture. These are the soft-power results that complemented our direct diplomacy efforts in countries that are critical to our national security,” they continued.”
— Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange - Huffpost
Thank you so much for your support of my 2017 Mount Everest trek and campaign for YFU! I was fortunate to achieve my dream of summiting Mount Everest on May 25, and have now successfully reached the peak of the highest mountain on each continent, known as the Seven Summits. More importantly, together we brought awareness to the need for cultural understanding and intercultural exchange, raising over $33,000 for Youth For Understanding's needs-based scholarship fund! I cannot thank you enough! Your support and encouragement never ceased to amaze me.Read More
The last 72 hours are a blur. On May 25th, at about 4:35am, Pasang Kami (PK) and I reached the highest point on earth. We watched the sun rise over the Tibetan plateau as Mount Everest cast a shadow stretching into the horizon. We reverently acknowledged the Buddhist prayer flags and photo of the Dalai Lama that someone had placed on the summit, and we mentally prepared ourselves for the decent, even as we snapped a couple of photographs.
IT'S GO TIME!!!!! IMG Team 3 just got the call to begin our final assault on the summit of Mt. Everest at 2am tonight!!!! If all things go as planned, we will reach Camp II (~21,000') tomorrow, then take a rest day on Sunday. Monday we aim to move to Camp III (~24,000'), and on Tuesday (the 23rd) we hope to reach the South Col (~26,000'). Weather permitting, we will attempt to summit Mt. Everest on Wednesday May 24th. I hope to be back on the grid with an update by May 26th or 27th. Until then, please keep in mind that no news is good news1.Read More
What am I doing here? That's a question I've asked myself a lot over the past few days. This expedition is expensive, time-consuming, dangerous, and uncomfortable (to say the least). Instead of coming here, I could have (i) made a down-payment on a house, (ii) continued to advance in my profession, (iii) pushed myself athletically in trail running, orienteering, martial arts, or ballroom dancing, and (iv) slept easily and happily in fully-oxygenated air in a climate-controlled room for 8+ weeks.Read More
We just returned from our first acclimatization rotation up Mt Everest, and everything is going well!!Read More
Yesterday morning was our first foray into the Khumbu Icefall—AND IT WAS AWESOME!!!!
The icefall is a ~2,000' cascading glacier that separates base camp from the upper slopes of Mt Everest, and aside from the objective hazards (seemingly bottomless crevasses, 3-story tall ice walls, house-sized ice blocks teetering above us, and Mt Everest's west shoulder constantly threatening to fall on us), it is a beautiful, natural jungle gym that gave me the biggest adrenaline rush I've had since my first experience properly mountain biking last summer in Banff.Read More
Last week, we spent a couple of days acclimatizing at the base of Lobuche Peak (~16,500'). During that stay, our team shot a music video to Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." One of our team members was a former ballerina, and another had a good eye for videography. With me helping to organize and direct the production, we made a pretty hilarious video—complete with Pulp Fiction dance moves and a Sherpa re-enactment of a scene from the movie Titanic. The video should be viewable on the IMG Everest blog, if you look for posts about Team 3. https://www.mountainguides.com/everest-south17.shtml It is also viewable on YouTube.Read More
I left Minneapolis on April 5. This departure felt quite different than did leaving Philly two years ago—perhaps because I'm in such a different position in life (working consultant vs. graduate student), perhaps because I know now what to expect out of the trek and Everest's lower slopes, or perhaps because two years ago the closest call I'd ever had in the mountains involved falling into a crevasse on Denali. Our 2015 expedition forever changed me: it reminded me first-hand just how precious life is, when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake unleashed a wall of ice and rocks on our camp, narrowly missing me and my teammates. We helped treat and comfort the victims before assisting with reconstruction efforts in the Khumbu on our way out of Nepal.Read More