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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: congress bundestag youth exchange

“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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Help Save CBYX

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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 savecbyx.org 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. 

Caitlynn Upton: Finding My Voice in Germany

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Guest post from Caitlynn UptonI never thought that a boring trip to Parliament in Germany would shape my career path, but life has a way of throwing you curveballs.

I had always been interested in languages and travel so it was logical to study international relations in college in order to work at an Embassy, especially since my parents used to call me their “little diplomat.” Diplomacy seemed like something I might enjoy, but I never felt particularly excited about it.

As a Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange scholar, I was invited along with the other scholars to Berlin during my exchange year in Germany. We were given the opportunity to meet the Ambassador to Germany and have a reception at the US Embassy. One would expect that meeting former Ambassador Phillip Murphy would have been the highlight of my trip, but as cool as he was, it was unexpectedly a visit to parliament that captured my interest.

Caitlynn Upton

Caitlynn Upton

While most of my fellow exchange scholars tried desperately (in vain) not to fall asleep, I was enraptured. On that particular day, the members of parliament were discussing taxes on same-sex couples with civil partnerships. The energy in the room and the passion with which people debated had a lasting impression on me.

In the fall of my return to the US, I started attending the public affairs college (James Madison College) at Michigan State University. One of my required courses was a policy writing course focusing on race, class, gender, and sexuality and I became more and more interested in legislation that effectedtargeted groups in the US, particularly bills pertaining to LGBT people and women. When it came time to declare my major, I knew exactly what I wanted; Social Relations & Policy with a double minor in Gender & Sexuality, and German. I hope to help research and draft policies for the advancement of LGBT peoples and women as a legislative assistant. This is a huge divergence from my original career plan, but it’s a perfect fit.

Over the summer, I was an intern for the Michigan Coordinated Campaign working on campaigns for democratic candidates. Every day of work, I knocked on about 170 doors and walked six miles in order to register voters, inform them about the candidates, canvas their responses, and talk about the issues that were important to their lives.

Some voters were nice, some of them indifferent, and some of them slammed the door in my face, but by this time I was well versed in adapting to different people and environments as I did in Germany. Much like my German friends and family, all of the voters I talked to had different upbringings, different values, and perhaps even different cultures. I couldn’t expect them to hold the same political beliefs as I do.

Before my year abroad, I was a very meek and accommodating person. My family liked to joke that being a “little diplomat” turned me into a metaphorical doormat, but they couldn’t say the same about me when I returned from my study abroad. Having to adapt to a different culture, teach myself a new language, and take on new responsibilities helped me gain the self- confidence that I needed to give presentations in class, talk to all those potential voters, and speak my mind about issues I care about. My exchange year in Germany helped me to not only gain a voice for myself, but also a political voice – all thanks to that “boring” parliament session in Berlin.

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).

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