A note from YFU USA President, Michael HillToday, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will capture the time and imaginations of viewers worldwide. While the media has focused a great deal around issues of human rights and safety in the lead-up to these games, I can't help but think of the parallels between the Olympic movement and the goals and aspirations of international exchange. The Olympics aim to create peace and understanding by bringing people from different cultures and backgrounds together for sporting events. Emphasizing what is common and good among our cultures, the Olympics themselves attempt to break down walls through friendly competition while preserving pride for one's place of origin.
Our work in international exchange sets its eyes on this prize, as well. Every time we send a YFU student to another nation for a semester or a year, we are asking them to bring the best of their culture and be open to learning about the best of other cultures. Our students are on an endurance race of high emotions with great payoff, and success will set them on a dynamic path for the rest of their lives.
So as you gather around televisions to watch the 2014 Olympics — or if you're lucky enough to watch in person — let's use the games as a shared celebration of trying to understand one another a bit better. Truly, in this way, perhaps we can shrink the globe for a time, just as YFU students do year round.