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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Campus Ambassador Introductions: Miranda

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“Rachel Andresen founded Youth For Understanding upon the idea that it’s hard to hate a country and its people if you’ve lived there. This mindset perfectly captures the sanctity of the cultural exchange.”

Imagine the feeling of the the warmth of a fuzzy blanket under the soft orange glow of an old flashlight in a dark living room, cozy in your refuge from the bullets of rain and sharp cracks of violent thunder outside. It’s ten o’clock at night, the power is out, and none of you can sleep. You, your host mom, and your host sister are all huddled together on the gray leather couch. Your host sister jumps every time the living room is illuminated by a bright flash of lightning, nervous from the anticipation of a loud thunderclap that is about to follow. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell ghost stories, and you have two really good ones up your sleeve. You tell your horrific tales, and succeed in absolutely horrifying your host sister. She clings to your arm in terror and you can’t help but grow a little warm inside knowing that your host sister, a mere stranger just months before, seeks comfort in you.

A weekend excursion to visit the world-famous Kölner Dom; the cathedral in Cologne that took more than 700 years to build (and is still under construction to this day!).

A weekend excursion to visit the world-famous Kölner Dom; the cathedral in Cologne that took more than 700 years to build (and is still under construction to this day!).

Now it’s your host mom’s turn. With a sinister glint in her eyes she tells the story of a gruesome murder that took place in her very hometown in the former Soviet Germany. As the story unfolds and the horror worsens, you suddenly become very glad that you’re not alone on this stormy night. You and your host sister cling to each other, shrieking as a bright shock of thunder and lightning shakes the whole house.

Toooooor! My first soccer game: Monchengladbach against Borussia Dortmund. I quickly learned from my experience at the Fu ßballstadion that w hen it comes to soccer, the Germans go hard or go home.

Toooooor! My first soccer game: Monchengladbach against Borussia Dortmund. I quickly learned from my experience at the Fu ßballstadion that w hen it comes to soccer, the Germans go hard or go home.

Alles Gute zum Abschluss! Posing with a fellow classmate at the 10th grade graduation ceremony.

Alles Gute zum Abschluss! Posing with a fellow classmate at the 10th grade graduation ceremony.

London calling! I was fortunate enough to enjoy Easter vacation with my host family on a week-long trip to England.

London calling! I was fortunate enough to enjoy Easter vacation with my host family on a week-long trip to England.

If there was ever a time during my exchange year that I remember most vividly, it would be this moment with my host family, sharing a fuzzy brown duvet with my host sister and realizing how close I had grown to them in the midst of the cacophony of the storm.

Nearly three years later, when I look back at my year abroad, it’s a little overwhelming to think how a family of strangers took me into their home and cared for me like one of their own. And all they expected from me was for me to care, too.

Frohes Neues! Celebrating Silvester with fireworks and friends.

Frohes Neues! Celebrating Silvester with fireworks and friends.

Celebrating the crazy February Karneval festivities. Prost!

Celebrating the crazy February Karneval festivities. Prost!

Rachel Andresen founded Youth For Understanding upon the idea that it’s hard to hate a country and its people if you’ve lived there. This mindset perfectly captures the sanctity of the cultural exchange. What makes a country a country is not its government, its laws, or its politics. What makes a country a country is its people. And if you get to know a country’s people and get the chance to live alongside them, you’ll never be able to think badly of that country, no matter your beliefs about its politics or government.

My time in Germany couldn’t have proven that any better.

Man kann uns nicht beschreiben, man muss uns erleben. My fellow classmates and I wore this motto plastered across our grey class sweatshirts on our graduating class trip to Bodensee.

Man kann uns nicht beschreiben, man muss uns erleben. My fellow classmates and I wore this motto plastered across our grey class sweatshirts on our graduating class trip to Bodensee.