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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: CBYX

“Why Hosting Matters”


Host a YFU / U.S. Department of State-Sponsored

High School Exchange Student

Why hosting matters: Hosting is a catalyst in making us all citizens of one world. It brings culture and a sense of adventure to you and your family while teaching valuable lessons about acceptance and global unity to your community. Hosting brings the world home to you.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs brings almost 2,000 high school students, representing over 50 countries, to study in a local U.S. high school while living with an American host family. Become a part of this unique opportunity by hosting a YES, FLEX or CBYX student with YFU this upcoming school year.

May 15, 2016 – International Day of Families

To all of our host families, thank you! Please help YFU and the U.S. Department of State celebrate this day and these unique hosting opportunities by posting images and messages on your social media accounts using the hashtag, #WhyHostingMatters. We want to see your hosting and exchange images on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, showing the world just how amazing it is to host these Scholarship recipients.


T-99 Days


Reblogged guest post from 2014-2015 CBYX Scholarship Recipient, LindseyOnly 99 days until my exchange year comes to an end. 99 days!

That isn’t a very long time!

And my host parents say that time will just fly faster the closer it gets to my departure date! It’s already going by pretty fast!

It feels like it was just yesterday when I flew in to the Frankfurt airport. When I met my 3-week host family. When I got to know the people in my Orientation Course.

Wasn’t it just yesterday when I hopped on that ICE train to Berlin (and sat in the completely wrong seat in the completely wrong train car) to meet my permanent host family?

Didn’t school just start? Wasn’t Christmas just a few weeks ago? When did it turn 2015? In just a few short days, am I really going to turn 17?!

I guess time goes by extremely fast when your brain has to figure out and process a lot of new things all the time.

With every new day comes a new chance for me to meet someone new, to try a new food, experience something I’ve never even dreamed of experiencing, or to settle in to the German culture. I am truly grateful towards my family, my host families, and also Youth for Understanding. Without the help of the CBYX Scholarship, I would never have had the chance to live my dreams. Because of YFU, I have become fluent in German, learned how to assimilate into another culture, gotten to try authentic German food, been able to see places that I didn’t even know existed, gotten to meet people from all over the world…and the list goes on!

So here’s to an amazing 99 days ahead of me! (and beyond!)

I hope my fellow exchange students here in Germany, in the US, and everywhere else in the world are enjoying their time too!


On Top of the World


Kicking and screaming, 13-year-old Andrew Towne protested his father’s proposal for the family to spend six months in Northern Italy while pursuing a Fulbright Scholarship. After all, Towne would miss the all-important transition to 7th grade, moving from class to class rather than being stuck with the same teacher all day! Six months later, Towne protested even louder, not wanting to come home.This introduction to an unknown place opened Towne’s eyes to the idea of exchange. When his sophomore-year German teacher suggested he apply for the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship, it didn’t intimidate him. Towne knew he wouldn’t be able to go on exchange without a scholarship, but when faced with the prospect of studying abroad, he said “it sounded like a great adventure.”

Paired with YFU, Towne experienced the depth of support and learning for which YFU is known. “The first month, I was in East Germany, nine years after the wall fell, living with a farmer in a village of 150 people learning German.” He remembers profound conversations with his East German host father. “My host father had been a young boy when World War II ended. He remembered being greeted by US soldiers when they crossed the Elbe River. When I asked what he thought about ending up under Soviet rule, he shrugged and said, ‘sometimes you get unlucky.’”

Towne learned that he and his host father had another connection. “For the entire time he was living behind the Communist wall, he was grateful that he was close enough to West Germany that he could pick up Johnny Cash on the radio. He loved the fact that my grandfather in Vermont was also a Johnny Cash fan.” Towne reflected, “he took it all in stride. That type of perseverance through 50 years of communism was a real eye-opener.”

Towne credits YFU for challenging him to think critically through facilitating very deep, personal conversations. One such conversation occurred during the week-long, mid-year orientation that is a staple of the YFU experience. Together with fellow U.S. and German exchange students, an alumnus described being assaulted by Neo-Nazis. “He was heartbroken, not so much by the beating, but more by the fact that so many onlookers who could have stopped the fight would look on without doing anything.” Towne continued, “he was a 16-year-old at the time, just like me. He looked us all in the eye and quoted Nietzsche, saying ‘those who are but half-and-half spoil every whole.’” The alumnus challenged his audience to consider action in the face of adversity. “I never forgot this story. It was real. It was tragic. I heard it first-hand.”

The exchange experience changed Towne’s life trajectory from music to foreign affairs. However, his experience returning home fundamentally changed the way he lived his life. “All I wanted to do was talk everybody’s ear off about this great experience I had, but I quickly realized that among teenagers, perhaps no one really wants to see your vacation photos.” Towne began bottling up his great experiences and wondered what others held inside. “I really try to approach everybody with a curiosity about what they are passionate about.” He continued, “Everyone has something — I love finding those things that really light people’s fire. And I attribute that to my exchange year.”

This summer, Towne will summit Mt. Everest to raise money for YFU.

Andrew holds up a YFU flag atop Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest mountain on the continent of Oceania; July 2011.

Andrew holds up a YFU flag atop Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest mountain on the continent of Oceania; July 2011.

“My biggest fear is of heights. Period,” Towne said. “A friend of mine, while I was an exchange student at the University of Nairobi — a choice that was motivated 100% from my YFU exchange year — asked if I wanted to climb Mt. Kenya, the second tallest mountain in Africa.” Towne thought about the physical challenge and considered the opportunity to confront his fear of heights and responded, “that sounds like a great idea!” At that moment, his addiction to climbing began.

Towne’s interest in endurance sports started in Germany. He said, “Before Germany, I thought I would become a professional musician. While there, I started jogging recreationally. And then in college, I walked onto the rowing team.”

Rowing proved to be very challenging from an endurance perspective, and Towne considered quitting many times. Through perseverance, “I learned to trust myself – that when faced with a tough challenge, I wouldn’t give up in the face of pain or difficulty. I grew to relish opportunities to prove that to myself over and over again.”

Now an accomplished mountaineer, having climbed the tallest mountain on five of the seven continents, Asia’s Mount Everest is his next challenge. When asked about the dangers of climbing the world’s tallest peaks, Towne said, “every mountain poses certain risks. On Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America, our expedition actually had to step over a body on the trail. Five people died during the two weeks I was on that mountain. On Mt. McKinley, two people died during my second climb. When you are on these mountains, everyone is cognizant of death.” He continued, “I am a very conservative mountain climber. I strongly believe the mountain will always be there, so when it comes to decisions that involve weather or conditions, a lot of climbers get themselves into trouble by pushing themselves when conditions suggest they shouldn’t. I don’t make decisions like that.”

Towne took on his first mountain, Mount Kenya, because “it provided an opportunity to accomplish an endurance feat that involved conquering my fear of heights.” Now he continues to climb “because I love the way it takes me to remote parts of the globe. Mountaineering, like YFU, makes the world feel smaller.”



Help Save CBYX


The U.S. Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the program’s future is in jeopardy. To guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support the 700 German and American participants annually, full funding for the program must be restored.YFU recognizes first hand its importance to our future leaders, as we have proudly helped administer the program, allowing U.S. students the opportunity to become CBYX scholars and placing German CBYX scholars with American host families.

Support for the program is needed from as many people as possible. Please visit to learn more and share the website and petition with anyone you know whose life has been touched by CBYX or who believes strongly in the German-American partnership.

How can you help?

  1. Sign the petition.
  2. Send a letter to your U.S. Representative and Senator.- Download the Congressional letter template and customize it.- Find the name of your Representative and your two Senators.- Follow the contact links provided, cut & paste your letter into the online forms and submit your letter.
  3. Are you a CBYX alum? Share your testimonial! Let your voice be heard. What impact did the program have on you personally and/or professionally?
  4. Tweet about it. Be sure include #saveCBYX and include @StateDept so that they know this is important to you. 

German Exchange Student Experiences American High School Spirit


Most Americans know Iowa for its agriculture. However, to Youth For Understanding (YFU) student Michael von Hohnhorst (far right), community spirit and high school activities are what make Iowa truly memorable.

Michael is an YFU Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Scholarship winner who has just finished his program in Nora Springs, Iowa.

Although Michael was not initially too thrilled about the cornfields and landscape, he described everything about his exchange program as very good.

Michael stepped out from his comfort zone by participating in the school musical and taking his first cooking class. He even tried to cook some American and authentic German dishes for his host family.

“They liked my cooking, but of course they preferred American dishes.”

During Michael’s exchange program, he was very active in school and was fearless to try new activities and also played wrestling and football. He devoted a lot of time in these two sports and experienced the strong community and team spirit from partaking in the games.

“I liked seeing team work and the strong school and community spirit. Everyone in the community would go to the games.”

Michael described his wrestling experience as especially tough when cutting weight while everyone enjoyed good food during Christmas.

“Although the training was tough, it was great to learn the culture.”

Michael found out about the CBYX Scholarship from his dad and his schoolmates who were the recipients in the past.

Although the application process took Michael a long time with all the required essays, interviews, and group debates with other candidates, he still believes it is worth applying for the scholarship.

“I would recommend this program. Under the CBYX Scholarship I felt like being more than just an exchange student. I had a special mission like an ambassador of Germany. I can give something back afterward.”

Since 1983 more than 17,000 students have received the CBYX scholarship, which is funded jointly by both the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. Winners receive a full scholarship to study in the United States or Germany and stay with a host family for a year.

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is a non-profit international educational organization with programs in 64 countries and is one of the world's oldest, largest, and most respected exchange organizations. To learn more about hosting an exchange student, contact 1.866.4.YFU.USA (1.866.493.8872).

Would you like to share your YFU Story? Please submit your stories and pictures!