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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: Exchange Students

A Look Back at the 2017-2018 USA Exchange Year

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Some of our favorite moments from the 2017-2018 YFU USA program year.

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“Why Hosting Matters”

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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.

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The Summer of 66

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Written by YFU Alum Alicia Pond for The Light

“If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That’s the best I can manage.”  -- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

AliciaPondProfile

AliciaPondProfile

I had been on an airplane only once before the departure of the 50 member, 1966 YFU Chorale to Latin America. During the 60’s, air travel was out of  reach for most people. No shorts or pajama bottoms on board; flying was so noteworthy you dressed in your best. There were no check-in lines, TSA agents, wands, x-rays, or limits on your luggage.

In order to reach the first city of our tour, Santiago, Chile, our flight itinerary started in Detroit and included stops in New York, Trinidad, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza, and finally Santiago. There were many unforgettable experiences en route, like the lay-over in New York’s Eero Saarinen-designed TWA terminal – a dramatic, curvaceous and futuristic structure. Saarinen himself described it as “a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel.” Another memory was the amazingly “sympatico” Argentine pilots who invited us to visit them, one by one, in the cockpit for a tour. Those were innocent times.

The most unsettling memory was the pilot’s announcement that there had been a military coup in Argentina while we were in the air. Neither the airline crew nor our group of parochial Michigan teens knew exactly what to expect when we landed in Buenos Aires. At the bottom of the stairs we filed off the plane and were met by a gauntlet of soldiers with rifles and bayonet tips. After gawking at our armed “hosts,” we were allowed to continue on to Santiago.

The Andes had me transfixed when we traveled to Sewell – a copper mining town no longer inhabited but is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were at an altitude of almost 8,000 feet, a dizzying statistic for Midwest flatlanders. It seemed as though I was standing on top of the world surrounded by jagged, snow covered peaks– in June!

I recall a concert in the coastal town of Valdivia because only six years prior, Valdivia had suffered from the world’s worst recorded earthquake (a magnitude 9.5) and rubble was still visible. I was interviewed in Valdivia by the local press about the Chorale and my photo appeared on the front page equal in size to that of Salvador Allende, President of the Chilean Senate and soon to be elected President of Chile.

We went on to sing in Uruguay. In a suburb of Montevideo, I stayed with a family who had a teenage son who remained my pen-pal for years. My family here wanted to gift me with a custom-made suede ladies’ suit (fine leather products were a source of pride to Uruguayans). They took me to a dressmaking shop where I was given a pile of fashion magazines and told that I need only select a style I liked from the magazine and it would be recreated for me in just two days. I was rather flustered when I had to strip down to my slip in front of the male tailor, but was further mortified as the entire family joined me in the fitting room. Standards of behavior in the US were rather different in 1966.

Pond in Guatemala on a medical mission earlier this year

Pond in Guatemala on a medical mission earlier this year

Our final stop was Rio. The friendship I developed with my host family has turned out to be one of the most consequential and durable of my life. So much of that stay in Rio de Janeiro is seared into my mind, so many firsts and so many lasting impressions. Forty-nine years later, we Skype frequently, my husband and I are godparents to one of my host-sister’s sons, we visit each other frequently and I consider myself to have one of the best Brazilian music collections in the Midwest!

It’s not as though the music-making and the Chorale did not leave wonderful impressions, but getting out of my comfort zone, opening myself to all that was new and different during those nine weeks, led to enduring friendships, heightened insights and new paths in life. It made me the person who has built homes in Tajikistan, performed election work in the Ukraine, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Russia; visited Bhutan, India, New Zealand, Botswana, Japan and more. There is no doubt much of what is “me” can be traced to the experiences from the summer of ’66.

Many Chorale items have been donated to and are now archived with the Library of Michigan. To search the archives, go here. If you have stories, journals, pictures you would like to share, please contact John Favazzo directly at jfavazzo@yfu.org.

YFU for Life: The Vintage Magical Tour 2015

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In September, YFU USA will be welcoming ten alumni from Argentina who completed exchanges to the U.S. in 1971. The group will be recreating their steps, visiting the high schools they attended nearly 45 years ago and speaking to students and community members about the impact their exchange experience had on their lives.

Juan Carlos De Marco

Juan Carlos De Marco

Tour Coordinator Juan Carlos De Marco stated, “We all feel great appreciation for the program that changed our lives so many years ago.” He continued, “We gathered in Buenos Aires three years ago to celebrate our 40th anniversary where we enjoyed reviving the memories of our exchange. This is when the idea of returning began – we still felt very useful and mobile, and thought ‘why not give back to YFU and contribute to universal understanding?’”

They are calling themselves the YFU Vintage Magical Tour and plan to rent a 15-passenger van to travel together from school to school throughout Michigan and Northern Ohio. The group hopes to expose students to the benefits of intercultural exchange. De Marcos said, “We are grounded in our own experience.  After almost 45 years, not only have we maintained life-long connections with each other, we are totally and absolutely convinced that the experience was perhaps the most important of our lives.” He continued, “This is not a tourist trip – we are convinced that increased understanding between youth is the basis of a better world.”

Meet the other members of the YFU Vintage Magical Tour and learn why they are excited to return after so many years!

Graciela Szczesny

Graciela Szczesny

Graciela Szczesny“In my teens, I always dreamed of being a traveler, to be open to explore other cultures more deeply.  YFU helped me realize this dream – the experience has marked my life forever, encouraging personal and spiritual growth. Now, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation with students who are considering the amazing journey of intercultural exchange.”

Fernando Rovetta

Fernando Rovetta

Fernando Rovetta Klyver“In 1971, I went from an all-boys school of 600 in Tucumán to a public school in Denby, MI of 3,500 students. Going on exchange exposed me to another culture and helped me value equality despite the differences of sex, race, language and religion. I hope that our return will strengthen ties across nations and the exchange of ideas, working toward a greater goal of ensuring human rights and peace.”

Maria Cecilia Torres

Maria Cecilia Torres

María Cecilia Torres“Just a teenager, only 15 years old, I landed in Michigan - too cold, too much snow, frozen lakes – an unusual winter landscape for a girl used to an extremely hot climate. Everything was different for me – from the public school bus, band, parades, cheerleaders, and no uniforms to being able to choose what subjects we wanted to study. In civics class, I learned about Russia and the Politbureau – the Cold War still was a subject in those years.  One could breathe the hippie spirit of the '70s everywhere. Looking back, I could not imagine my life without the magical experience of YFU. We may no longer be youth, but the understanding we gained has lasted a lifetime. Thank you, YFU!”

Alida

Alida

Alida Abad“Is it possible to be an exchange student at the age of 60 or more? Well…in some ways it is. Being an exchange student changed our lives forever. Despite living in different cities and in some cases different countries, our connection through exchange brings us together and helps our friendships thrive. What would I say to a teenager today? Dare to join us in our dream.  Share with us our Vintage Magical Tour, and be part of something big. The experience of being an exchange students lasts forever! Try it!”

Oscar Cabrera

Oscar Cabrera

Oscar R. Cabrera    “When I arrived, a 17-year-old only child with little experience outside my home, everything was new – not unintelligible, just strange and different. Joyce, my mom in the USA told me I would always be remembered as one of their kids. Frank, my father taught me not to push like a bull and encouraged me be more humble. With our return, I hope our young audiences will listen to our history and wish to emulate our experiences, building a transgenerational legacy by way of improving understanding between different peoples, cultures, continents and communities. To become closer to our unknown neighbors, different, but at the same time so similar to ourselves.”

Sports for Understanding

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Written for The Light by Flynn Coleman

I didn’t know then that my first summer abroad, as a junior high school student with Sports For Understanding in Italy, would teach me so much about the kind of person I wanted to be. I was excited to represent the U.S. on a soccer team in Europe, live with a host family, and to experience all aspects of Italian life. But, when I boarded the plane for my adventure across the world, I was also nervous about what was to come.

Our team met in Rome, and after a brief time exploring the sites, we drove several hours north to meet our host families. A young woman in soccer clothes arrived to pick me up. She gave me a warm hug and we exchanged smiling “ciaos,” which was about all the Italian I knew at the time. We drove for what seemed like ages, until we arrived at a concrete house in the middle of a cornfield. Figaro, the family cat, was lounging in the sun. I scratched his head, and then made my way into my home for the summer. There I met the only other member of my host family, the unofficial adopted grandmother of the woman who had picked me up.

Coleman’s Sports For Understanding Soccer team in Italy, 1996

Coleman’s Sports For Understanding Soccer team in Italy, 1996

That night, I wondered what my summer would be like. How would I possibly communicate with the people I was now living with, who spoke no English? My Italian was limited to speaking Spanish with an Italian-esque accent.

As I unpacked my things, I started to hear the faint sounds of people singing, laughing, and strumming guitars. The sounds became louder and louder, until it seemed like these people were actually approaching the house. And then, in a moment I will never forget, the music came through the house, where a large group of people from the town had come by, singing, dancing, and playing music, to welcome me home.

That’s when I realized we all do speak the same language after all. And I saw in that moment that life is about connecting with and supporting others.

The night before I flew to Italy I cried, afraid of what was ahead. Everything felt so uncertain as I journeyed across the world to live with people I had never met, in a country where I knew no one. After the summer was over, on the day I was to leave my Italian family, I cried again, this time sad to leave behind the family who had cared for me from the moment I walked into their lives. They came home each day to cook enormous and incredible lunches, which to this day constitute the best meals of my life. They gave me a tour of the accordion factory where they worked long hours to make ends meet, drove me to soccer games and festivals, introduced me to their friends, sang and danced to American 80’s music with me, and gave me a place in Italy to call home.

They didn’t have much, but they shared it all with me. By the end of the summer, my Italian was quite fluent, and after I left, I continued to write my friends in Italy, who were really more like family. I will never forget the utter joy in their writing when I sent them a new stereo and cds of their favorite music. To this day, a picture of us on the soccer field is framed in my home. They live in my heart as people who taught me about the person I wanted to become, and who showed me that home can be anywhere when you are with people who love you.

I went on to spend much of my life living abroad, learning from people’s experiences worldwide. The young woman I lived with in Italy had suffered much discrimination throughout her life, something I have thought much about since my summer living with her.

I have since become an international human rights lawyer and social entrepreneur.  I have spent my life living the core belief that we are all the same underneath, and thus all equally deserving of the same rights; having our voices heard, an opportunity to follow our dreams, and a life of dignity. I have become a fervent advocate for women’s rights, including the right to participate in sports. Sports have immense catalyzing power; the power to bring people of different backgrounds and beliefs together, and to teach leadership, confidence, teamwork, tolerance, and dedication.

Sports, and being a member of a team, have brought me some of the proudest moments of my life. I went on to play soccer for Georgetown – and I also play soccer wherever I go in the world. I joined a men’s team in Cambodia, where little Cambodian girls would come out to watch in awe as a girl played soccer with the boys. While studying abroad in Chile, I joined a men’s team with the help of my host family. I went out for the first game and we lined up to shake hands. Everyone shook hands, but when they got to me, they kissed me on the cheek. We played the game and our team ended up winning. We lined up after the game, and sure enough, everyone shook my hand, and no one kissed my cheek again. That day always reminds me of the power of women getting involved and having the opportunity to participate.

Ultimately, everyone has a story to tell. We all deserve to belong and to have a say in our communities, in business and politics, in a court of law, and in the world. From advocating for truth and reconciliation commissions, human rights protections, and transparent trade policies that dismantle barriers to entrepreneurship in the developing world, I have seen that we all want the same things; to be seen and accepted for who we are, and to have an opportunity for a brighter future for ourselves and for our families.

This is what I learned in that house, in that cornfield, in that tiny corner of the magnificent, Italian countryside. It’s what I’ve learned on soccer fields around the world, in war crimes tribunals, government halls, and people’s homes in villages thousands of miles from where I grew up. We should all be able to make our own choices about our lives.

Coleman in Rwanda in 2014 (photo taken by Betty Krenek)

Coleman in Rwanda in 2014 (photo taken by Betty Krenek)

T-99 Days

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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!

Prost!-Lindsey

How Will You Give Back this Global Youth Service Day?

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Did you know that April 17-19 is Global Youth Service Day? Consider hosting an event that gives back to your community while helping to increase awareness that we're all citizens of one world.This occasion provides the perfect opportunity to come together with your fellow volunteers, staff, students and families to share our mission within your local communities. Think about the causes that inspire you and come up with your own project or find a local event to participate in.

Have fun and get creative! You could:

  • Be ambassadors for peace - bring together area exchange students and cultural groups for an interactive intercultural day celebrating diversity

  • Offer to tutor students in language or world history

  • Get together with your neighbors and plant a community garden

  • Connect with elderly citizens through cultural presentations at a local senior residence

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Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.01.53 PM

One needs look no further than YFU students Sarah and René for inspiration.

René volunteered in a broad range of community service activities including walking to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, dismantling holiday decorations for the City of Ann Arbor, removing invasive plant species in Ann Arbor parks and cutting branches at a park on Nature Area Workday, shoveling snow for elderly neighbors, leading games for children at a pool event, and helping raise awareness of CBYX, YFU, and exchange through booths at community events. For GYSD René pulled weeds and invasive species in local forest to help regrowth of native species.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.02.06 PM

While on program, Sarah completed more than 137 hours of community service! Her involvement included everything from coaching youth soccer, volunteering at American Red Cross blood drives, participating in community recycling events, organizing international lunches where students brought dishes representative of different countries and discussed the culture and food of the country to classroom presentations on her native culture and language. She continued her involvement by participating in GYSD as a volunteer at the City of Portsmouth's Quarterly Hazardous Waste Collection, Document Shredding, and Electronics event.

Find more ideas and tips inYouth Service America's planning toolkitfor creating your own GYSD community project!

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Share your service projects & photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #yfuGYSD. We’ll be following along and might even share your project on our social media. We can't wait to see how you will get involved!

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Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.06.14 PM

Two Countries One Home – Welcome to the United States

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A note from YFU USA President & CEO Michael HillThis is one of my favorite times each year: the time when we get ready to receive the list of students who want to come on exchange to the United States through a YFU program. At YFU USA, we are the proud recipients of close to 2,000 students each year, who come from more than 50 countries and who express hundreds of cultures.

MEH Selfie

MEH Selfie

While many of those students have already signed up to make the world their home, there is still time to take this adventure of a lifetime! Why might you want to do that?

The world is becoming an increasingly connected place, and your future success will depend on your ability to adapt to the world and its various peoples. Coming to the US will give you a chance to experience a typical American home, to make new friendships that will last a lifetime, and to experience up close what makes the US such a special place. But you’ll also have a chance to share your culture. In YFU communities across the nation, we have host families and schools who are interested in learning from you.

One of the great things I get to do as President of YFU USA is talk to students before, during and after their program. Here’s some of what I hear from those who came here on exchange:

  • It changed my life and gave me a second family and group of friends. I will never see myself just as a citizen of my own country again; I now belong to two cultures and two nations.

  • When I got ready to apply to college, my exchange year set me apart from others. Not only did the colleges and universities know that I could handle anything that came my way, they knew I had already proven I had the curiosity and drive to succeed.

  • I still keep in touch with my host family. They visit me, and I still visit them. The world is truly my home now.

MEH student collage

MEH student collage

There are a ton of reasons to consider a year with us in the United Sates. Whatever your reason, know that we’re ready to help you take this adventure of a lifetime. We can’t wait to say, “Welcome to the United States!”

Very truly yours,

Michael E. HillPresident & CEOYFU USA

West Hills Middle School Students Enjoy Arctic Adventure as Part of Multicultural Celebration

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West Hills Middle School sixth graders recently traveled electronically to the Arctic through a presentation by YFU exchange student Amisuna Berthelsen from Greenland, assisted by Marta Corriga from Italy. The program featured a live Skype hookup with a Greenlandic classroom where American and Greenlandic students could see and question each other about some of their vast cultural differences.  Among the tidbits that “Ami” shared about Inuit culture:

  • He never saw a tree until he was eight years old (visiting Iceland) and had to touch it to see if it was real.

  • His family has never had a car (there are virtually no roads), but they’ve had a boat and a dogsled.

  • He lives in the world’s smallest capital of 15,000 people. His country has almost 60,000 people, about the same population as West Bloomfield, yet his country is more than three times the size of Texas.

  • Typical foods include raw whale blubber, seal, musk ox, and, of course, pizza.

  • Greenlandic children speak Greenlandic, Danish, and English.

  • Ami never had a snow day until he came to Bloomfield.

Tweet from Andy Gignac from Skype classroom event.

Tweet from Andy Gignac from Skype classroom event.

The American students asked their Greenlandic peers about trends, sports, school, weather, and foods in their countries. When the American students asked about their electronic connectivity, all laughed when many of the Greenlandic students whipped out their smart phones. The assembly concluded with the Greenlandic version of Pharrell Williams' song, “Happy” followed by an Italian version of the same, as all danced together.

The assembly was a prelude to the Multicultural Celebration to be held at West Hills Middle School on the evening of Friday, March 27 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.

Ami and Marta are two exchange students representing the group of eight YFU exchange students who have attended Bloomfield Hills High School this year living with local host families.

YFU is currently seeking host families for exchange students coming in August for the 2015-2016 academic year.  Visit the YFU website to learn more. Roll out the welcome mat, and see the world through the eyes of a new exchange son or daughter!

Exchange Students Not At Fault

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Gary Shumaker is Ohio field director for Youth For Understanding USA.

"Recently, The Enquirer reported that foreign exchange students “are part of the reason Cincinnati Public Schools’ is in danger of dropping an academic rating category” in the Ohio Report Card (“CPS explains grade drop,” Aug. 14). This statement is both misleading and inaccurate.

The issue that is threatening Cincinnati’s “Effective” status on the Report Card is lowered graduation rates, but the cause isn’t foreign exchange students. It’s that the Ohio Department of Education is incorrectly labeling them as “dropouts,” thus lowering the number of graduating students.

No Child Left Behind formulas help states determine graduation rates, but there is no place in the formula for foreign exchange students who spend one year in a U.S. school. Maria Hernandez Ferrier, a director at the federal Department of Education, has said NCLB does not discourage school districts from taking foreign exchange students and their data is “not to be included in the school-level measurement of adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind.”

But the article paints Ohio’s clerical error as the fault of America’s international guests. And though it does describe the mistaken calculations, the tone could easily discourage schools from taking on exchange students in the hopes of raising their statistics – and there is a bigger picture at stake. What international students can bring to an American high school often goes far beyond what can be calculated into a percentage.

There are numerous individuals who have testified to the ways foreign exchange students enrich our classrooms. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military was “enthusiastically” behind international exchange. President Barack Obama said exchanges “break down walls between us” and help reveal our “common humanity.”

But perhaps David Waters, a Missouri high school principal, put it best when he said welcoming foreign exchange students into the community was a “life-changing” experience for his American students, who are “more cognizant of the world around us and the interdependence of our global society.”

School district report cards will change over the years, but the impact of international culture in our schools lasts a lifetime. As someone who has been an exchange organization volunteer and current host parent, I would be happy discuss the virtues of global exchange."

Read the original article here: CPS Explains Potential Report Card Drop

View Gary's article here: Exchange Students Not At Fault

My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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My YFU Family is the BEST because…

Eleven of our twenty-one YFU daughters joined us in Berlin this month for a big family reunion!

The official event was three days long with lots of chocolate chip cookies, s'mores, stories and pictures.  It was great fun to watch these lovely, accomplished young women get to know each other, swap stories and discover what exchange student experiences they shared.  We played a game "Stand up if you ate tacos as your first meal . . . made homemade ice cream . . . played in the orchestra . . . talked to Uncle Bob about his stamp collection . . . liked root beer . . ."  We met their parents, husbands, boyfriends and five of our nine YFU grandchildren.  Five of our daughters live in Berlin. We got to see their homes, walk their neighborhoods and meet them for an afternoon at a museum or in Potsdam before and after the reunion itself. We even randomly run into one daughter on a busy Berlin shopping street!  Two live within a short distance of one another and one of my favorite mornings involved leaving one house, walking to the local Saturday market, then popping over to the other's house to retrieve something.  The grandchildren were excited to see me again and I could wish my YFU son-in-law a happy birthday in person.  By the time we left, we felt very at home in many corners of Berlin.

We originally initiated the idea of the reunion last fall and set up the basic outline of events, but it was our daughters and their families who pulled it all together and filled in all the gaps, made the food, organized the adventures, hosted the ones coming in from afar and put together a scrapbook for us to express what their years abroad had meant to them.  My YFU family is the best.

--- Susan was a host mom from 1989 to 2011 and a volunteer from Charlottesville, VA.

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

My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

“You will not see the world the same way anymore!”

---- Fabio from Brazil lived as a member with of the Hanoch family in Texas

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

My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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My YFU Family is the BEST because…

They took me to so many places, but also they made this year unforgettable, amazing, and fun.  We visit so many places: Alligator Land, Universal Studios (still can’t believe that I did this free drop thing), St. Augustine and the beach in Florida, the Zoo, the Cahokia Mounts, the Arch and the Art Museum in St. Louis, the Big Been, the Mall and the John Hancock Observatory in Chicago.

One of the best weeks here was - of course - the YFU east coast trip (NYC, Washington DC, Philadelphia), but only because my American sister, Sarah was with me. […]And I will never forget how we waltz on 5th Avenue, and switched our name tags which included our home country (we basically confused everyone; people tried talking in German to her and didn’t believe that I am not American, so they started talking in German).

My host family also made this year special, because they took me to Kings Island, Jungle Jim’s, Metamora, and on college visits, they taught me how to ride horses and told us many funny stories from their work (who trades their calculator for a candy bar, seriously?!). They had so much patience with my English, okay and probably a lot of fun too…My host sister used to write similar words down and draw pictures. They always helped me with school stuff. Since my host mom is a Math teacher, she basically could answer every of those stupid math question, and for my Personal Finance Class my host dad tried to explain the weird US tax system to me.

I enjoyed my time here and I am so happy and grateful that they convinced me to do swimming (maybe) and tennis, and supported me to do all those clubs, … okay except FFA (I realized all leaves look the same), but everything else (BPA, Model Legislature, FCCLA, Academic Team, Prom Committee) was a lot of fun. I am so happy that I could be a part of their family, and experience so much. America is different (weird) in many ways, but also the same. (Who gets first in the shower? … Grrr I am pretty sure my host brother takes 30 minutes showers, who calls shotgun first? … most the times I did not … Etc.) Anyway there are many reasons why this host family was the best for me and I probably could fill hundreds of pages with it.

-- Nina from Germany lived as a member of the Baumer family in Mooreland, IN

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

My YFU "Son" Is The Best Because...

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My YFU family is the best because...

There’s a saying that goes: “We don’t get to choose our families…” this is only partially true.

I remember perusing the new student profiles and seeing Stenly’s.  I instantly knew he would be a great fit for us.  Sure enough, he got here, and he won us over immediately.  Everything was so exciting for him, from the size of the highways to the Dallas skyline, to his creating his first fajita. Every experience was taken in with a freshness that made me smile to see his reactions.

Since we don’t have any natural children, I didn’t think I’d ever be a ‘dad.’  I still remember the day (via text messages of course) when he asked if he could call me Dad.  I immediately texted back a resounding “Yes!! Of course.”  This left us with another question: what to call his other dad?  I suggested ‘Papa’, but I typed it phonetically and Stenly read it as Pupa.  So ‘other dad’ lovingly became known as Pupa.  Since that time, not a day has passed when we don’t hear the word Dad or Pupa followed by some comment or question, and we still get excited every time we hear it.

As the time draws nearer to send him back, each day becomes a trial that tests my ability to not tear up.  No matter what country he’s in we’ll always be a family.

Thank you, Stenly for being our son and for letting us be your parents.  This is why our exchange stu...no, our *son* is the best.

He was the best ‘choice’ we ever made.

With Love,

Dad and Pupa

---- Erik is a host dad from Dallas, TX

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My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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ina_paxtonIL

ina_paxtonIL

My YFU Family is the BEST because we always have fun together.

They accomplished to make me feel home after the first day I arrived and they care about me like they care about the 3 other kids in the house. We have great memories and I will always know that I am welcome here. I have found a new family, thank you, YFU!

-- Ina from Germany lived as a member of the Gracia family in Paxton, IL

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German Exchange Student Experiences American High School Spirit

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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).

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My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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nicole

nicole

Every single member of the family supported me during my exchange year and they still do even though I live so far away from them. I feel really honored that I had the opportunity to live with my family.

Every character is a big inspiration to my lifestyle. The best thing about my host family is that I never had a conflict with anyone which made my year even more awesome. The best moment was that one time when my host mom came over to Germany last year and met my family here back home. She totally got along with my German parents and sisters and loved it so much here, that she wants to come over again, but with the entire host family. There is no doubt that my host family will miss the marriage that of my sisters or even of myself in the future. Of course, we wouldn’t miss a marriage of my host sisters in the future, either! Thank you for everything, what a life experience!!

- Nicole from Germany stayed with the Robinsons in Wixcom, MI

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My YFU Family Is The Best Because...

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Milena

Milena

Milena from Germany stayed with the Knight Family in Clarkston, Michigan. Milena believes that her exchange experience was life-changing. She is also very thankful that her host family was always there for her.

My host family is the best because they invited me- a totally strange person- into their home, showed patience by explaining everything to me, and -the most important thing- accepted me for what I am.

Since I arrived here, I have grown a lot. In my host family but also as a person. I am very thankful for that! I could follow the forming of our relationship which was really interesting. It took a lot of work and time to get to where we are now.

First I was a little shy and did not talk a lot. The relationship with my host parents was more facile. But with the time I got to know them better. Soon I also had a great relationship with my host sister. It started when we were working on a project outside in the yard. Together we had to solve a problem and managed to do it, and that really helped us to get to know each other and form a connection.

My host sister and I had a lot of fun together and created a whole page of inside jokes. We both enjoyed having someone our age around. After a couple months our relationship turned from being good friends into being sisters. We have great moments but also times when we don't do a lot together.

The relationship with my host parents also became a lot better after some time. The many conversations with my host father tightened our relationship and the first hug from my host mother also helped us to get closer.

Besides integrating into a new family I also learned a lot about American Culture. Americans celebrate different Holidays and I am very glad that I got to experience these events together with my host family.

The first unfamiliar holiday was Thanksgiving. On that day, the whole family came to our house and we had a lot of fun and really good food. The next different holiday was the celebration of Christmas Day on the 25th instead of Christmas Eve. New Years Eve was probably the most exciting event because we were in New York City and saw the Ball Drop.

Once I was asked if “I was dropped at the right door sill” and I said “Yes, definitely!!” My host family has had a huge impact on my life. Here I learned important things for my life; little things and big things. I found out what I really want and what the I value the most.

When I go back to my home country I would like to change some things in my life. I hope to do things differently than before, things that I never really paid attention to. I learned how important it is to treat people with respect and I especially want to be nicer to my mother.

It is amazing how my host family included me in their life and what touches me the most is that my host parents treat me like their own daughter and that my host sister and host parents are always there for me and always willing to listen to me. I am very thankful for that, and altogether there is no word meaningful enough to say the “Thank You” that they deserve!

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My YFU Family is the best because...

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stenly

stenly

I still remember the time when I came and everything was so exciting. Every little thing made me excited such as going shopping, or going to eat at a restaurant, with which they spoiled me. I can proudly say that they turned me into a “lazy American” in just 10 months. I will never forget those priceless times when we had game nights with family and friends, just random eating dates, trips to different parts of the states, and, of course, those midnight gym visits. I could really be myself and enjoy every little aspect of my life. If I had to choose between my natural parents and my host parents, I just couldn’t decide because they both are golden and stuck deep in my heart. Thank you Dads for making me appreciate everything and everybody in this big world as well as making myself, me. There are just not enough words to describe y’all. I love you with my heart!

- Stenly from Estonia, stayed with a host family in Dallas, TX

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