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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: Support

YFU Support Structure and Communication


In our last post, we shared information about allowing your student some space to adjust to their host family, new rules, and to develop a support structure in their new community.  But we also know there will be moments that you may be concerned about your child and want to know what to do. 

YFU has a very specific support structure which has been refined over the last 60 years, particularly in light of our current era of immediate and constant communication.   Your child’s participation at local and national pre-departure orientations will help them understand the value in tapping into the support system in the way that is designed to be used.  Of course sometimes it may feel difficult to ask for help or admit that things are not going as well as imagined. Encourage your child, and we encourage you, to rely on YFU’s dedicated support team during the exchange experience.

SCENERIOS - How would you respond?



Your child arrives in the host country and after a few days you see posts on Facebook about how small the town is, that there’s nothing to do, the host family is too busy for them, or your child can’t imagine living there for whole a year. What do you do?

Call your SSM to request that someone check in with your child and help as needed. If your child contacts you directly, advise them talk to their YFU representative in the host country.

Late one night, your child calls crying about how they don’t have any friends, school is really hard, they never understand anything and this was so much tougher than they thought it would be. What do you do? 

When this happens, often the student gets off the phone feeling much better for having shared, but you are left worrying. While on the phone, suggest that your child talk with the host family or YFU representative, who is always available to help in exactly these types of situations.

A grandparent passes away unexpectedly and you know your child will be upset. What do you do?

Please call your SSM so that YFU in the host country can make sure your child has someone to talk to and to comfort them right after they receive the news from you.

After feeling as though your child has done pretty well for the first few months, you notice s/he is too active on social media sites and is often wanting to Skype with you and you hear from your other children about how often they are chatting online or texting. What do you do?

If this goes on for more than a couple of weeks, call your SSM to request that someone check in with your child and help as needed. S/he is most likely going through culture shock. If your child contacts you directly, suggest they talk to their YFU representative about starting some activities to get involved with school and the community. 


Once your child gets on the plane, your first point of contact for concerns is your Support Services Manager (SSM): Alisha Whitelock at ; 303-270-0068 x7246.

Your child will be provided with an in-country area representative (who will be in contact with your child throughout the semester or year) and the host country YFU office contact information. It is important to encourage your child to reach out to someone in the host country for support.

Teens tend to ask for a change of host family before attempting to work through the challenging situations, or when things aren’t as perfect as they had hoped. A change of host family is, although not impossible, not an easy fix to common exchange problems.   YFU staff and volunteers in each country are available to help you and your child with all challenges – big or small.  It is important to trust them and their assessment of situations while helping your child recognize cultural misunderstanding, host sibling rivalries, or what have you.  Generally, there are many conversations between the student, host family and Area Representatives in an effort to problem-solve before deciding that a change of host family is in fact the best outcome.

After many years of experience, we have found that our support is effective when used.  Our advise to you and your child is -- Don’t try to solve problems on your own or wait until a problem has seemingly spun out of control. YFU staff and volunteers are trained to support you and THEY WANT TO HELP! 

Doing Nothing is doing Something


Even during their time away, you will have a great influence on your child’s exchange experience (positive and negative).  A big part of this influence is how you react to your child’s experience with their host family and their reactions to adjusting to another culture.

It is important to remember that your child is living with a family who has their own customs.  It is very likely that their rules and ways of doing things are different than in your household.  As discussed earlier in the “I never thought of it that way” blog post, there will be many things that your child will be getting used to. Your actions and reactions will influence their adjustment.  Let’s look at the three areas of which students say they felt the most pressure from home: communication, the wishing to visit, and the emotional support structure.

For more information on these topics and others, take time to read the Study Abroad Parent Handbook including the sections on “Preparing Your Child and Yourself” and “Appendix V” on Policies and Procedures.


Allow your child to set the amount of communication—which may require patience on your part.  This can be difficult when you want to know what is going on in their life.  Yet, the less you hear, the better things are most likely going.  Think about it - the more involved s/he is in making friends and participating in host family life, the less time your child will have communicating about it.  Let them be in the present.

In your communications with your child, be upbeat and ask questions about their activities and host family (even though you might not get answers quickly).  They may be feeling conflicted about  the choice  of going away from home for a year or semester,  so don’t use phrases that will increase that conflict like—how everyone wishes they were at a certain event.  Your child can’t be in two places at the same time, so encourage them to enjoy the choice they made and the opportunities that present themselves because of that choice.


While your child is living in another country, it may seem like the perfect time to plan an overseas vacation.  It may be hard to imagine not seeing your child for a year or semester, and you want to see where you child is living.  While this may seem like a convenient opportunity for a trip, you are not doing your child a favor with such plans.

Dividing their attention between the host environment and the home environment is a challenging situation for any student; being confronted with both at the same time is a struggle that a number of students can’t deal with. It may cause homesickness and adjustment issues, sometimes to such a degree that students decide to follow their parents home rather than continue their exchange.

Please don’t put your child in a situation where they need to tell you that they would prefer for you not to visit but grant them this time on exchange as their own chance to grow up. The hosting community could be an excellent destination for the next family vacation after your child’s return as a lot of our students love to return for a visit and are then in a much better place to show of their second home.

If you decide you still absolutely want to visit your child on program, please be aware that YFU requires you to consult with your Support Service Manager before making any bookings. Travel plans will only be accepted at the end of the exchange program and when they don’t interfere with school attendance or host family plans.

BREAKING AWAY - Support System

A large part of your child’s success as an exchange student depends upon his/her willingness and ability to develop a support group in the host country. In order to do this, your child must be ready to break away from the support group that s/he has known and relied on his/her entire life. Likewise, the support group from home must allow your child some space. This will allow the host family and local Area Representative to develop a relationship with your child and be ready to take over the support role that you fill at home. If your child can build meaningful relationships with their support in country (i.e. host parents and Area Rep), s/he will have the necessary resources to succeed.

Attitude can make a difference when going into a new home; learning a new language; and developing a new support network with new friends and new coping skills.  Four things that YFU encourages in its students are sharing, respecting, learning and patience.  By promoting an attitude that encompasses these, you are promoting a successful experience for your child.