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YFU

YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: iew

YFU Campus Ambassadors: Meet Emma

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As we celebrate International Education Week, YFU is excited to announce the launch of our new Campus Ambassador Program (CAP). Following a competitive application process, five YFU young alumni were selected from across the country to serve as our inaugural class of Campus Ambassadors. As a continuation of their exchange experience, they will mentor prospective study abroad and international students, and share YFU exchange opportunities within their schools and communities across the country. Stay tuned throughout the week as we introduce these student leaders. 

“Studying abroad helps to strengthen bonds between cultures and nations.”

Name: Emma

From: New Jersey

Went on exchange to: Sweden

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Emma is a 17-year-old YFU alum and is absolutely thrilled to be a part of YFU's Campus Ambassador Program! A senior in high school, Emma spent her exchange on the southern coast of Sweden for a semester in 2014-15. She has since caught the travel bug, continuing to study multiple foreign languages in her free time. Aside from traveling, Emma is an aspiring journalist, performer, and lover of all things sports. If you ever need someone to go to IKEA with, Emma will never deny the opportunity for köttbullar and lingonsylt!

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I believe in exchange because it teaches the world to be accepting of cultural differences and varying traditions.

YFU Campus Ambassadors: Meet Crystal

brandpointyfu

As we celebrate International Education Week, YFU is excited to announce the launch of our new Campus Ambassador Program (CAP). Following a competitive application process, five YFU young alumni were selected from across the country to serve as our inaugural class of Campus Ambassadors. As a continuation of their exchange experience, they will mentor prospective study abroad and international students, and share YFU exchange opportunities within their schools and communities across the country. Stay tuned throughout the week as we introduce these student leaders. 

“I believe in exchange because it allows you to realize just what you are capable of accomplishing.”

Name: Crystal

From: Washington, DC

Went on exchange to: Japan

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My name is Crystal, and I am a freshman attending American University in Washington D.C., majoring in International Relations and Political Science. I adore traveling, and my hobbies include drawing, reading, golfing, playing piano, and exploring new places. I studied abroad with YFU the junior year of high school over summer vacation in Nagoya, Japan.

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YFU Campus Ambassadors: Meet Misha

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As we celebrate International Education Week, YFU is excited to announce the launch of our new Campus Ambassador Program (CAP). Following a competitive application process, five YFU young alumni were selected from across the country to serve as our inaugural class of Campus Ambassadors. As a continuation of their exchange experience, they will mentor prospective study abroad and international students, and share YFU exchange opportunities within their schools and communities across the country. Stay tuned throughout the week as we introduce these student leaders. 

“I believe in exchange because it creates a global community that fosters understanding and compassion.”

Name: Misha

From: Virginia

Went on exchange to: Sweden

My name is Misha, I am currently finishing up my last year of high school in Arlington, VA.  I spent my sophomore year abroad in Gothenburg, Sweden, where I found a second family and another home. My exchange year has been the most significant thing I've done in my life thus far, and I have been happy to get the chance to continue my connection with YFU through volunteer work since my return to the States. It's exciting to get the opportunity to focus all efforts in an established program, so I am looking forward to being able to participate with fellow alumni to make a difference in the organization.  

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A Dream Come True

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Guest post from 2014-2015 YES Scholarship Recipient, HibaHow do you know what is a goal if you have never accomplished one? How do you know what anguish is if you have never said goodbye to your family and friends with eyes full of tears? How do you know what diversity is when you have never lived under the same roof with people from a different country and culture? How do you know what imagination is if you have never thought of the moment when you will go back home?

I have experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions during the past few months. I am an eleventh grade exchange student from Karachi, Pakistan now living with a family at Frog Song in Cotati and studying at Credo High School. It is incredible to believe that I was selected as one of 108 students out of over 3,000 applicants for the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program. This program provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the U.S. Students live with host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about our countries and cultures.

Hiba with YFU staff during arrival orientation

Hiba with YFU staff during arrival orientation

Cotati’s a little smaller

Sept. 29, 2014 marked the start of my exchange year in the United States. Leaving a city of 23.5 million people in Pakistan, I arrived in Cotati, a city of 7,000 people. Karachi is known as the “City of Lights,” a place that never sleeps. Of course, what can you expect from a place having more than 20 million people?

The day I learned I would be placed in California, three things popped into mind: beaches, celebrities and fancy skyscrapers. I thought of meeting Angelina Jolie – that was the impression I had of California. Then I arrived in Cotati, a small city surrounded by big green fields, farms and a hilly landscape, which gave me a whole new perspective of California. In fact, I am finding it a very different and peaceful way of living here. Cotati has allowed me to ponder nature and its beauty; I rarely had witnessed this kind of nature in Karachi, where all I saw were big cars, tall buildings, settlements and a busy life. I realized that America is a diverse land, not what it is typically shown in the movies. I understand now that things cannot be generalized or stereotyped.

I am overwhelmed with the love and care I have received since my arrival. Being hosted by a supportive family is an integral part of any exchange year, and I am thankful for being matched with a family so kind and caring. A recent day with them in San Francisco, where I could see the ethnic diversity and bubbling colors, was lovely.

During my exchange, I am attending Credo High School. The expectation of the first day of my American high school used to intimidate me; I imagined attending a large school with 2,000 students. However, after learning how young Credo is, I knew that something different was waiting for me and that my exchange year would not be like that of other exchange friends. Honestly speaking, Credo is the best thing that has happened to me. Many students were waiting to welcome an exchange student from Pakistan. The Waldorf education system is new to me, and I like the fact that I get to study a variety of subjects that are not taught in my home school, like Astronomy or my current course in Transcendentalism.

Hiba Collage

Hiba Collage

People ask what is the biggest cultural difference for me. One thing that immediately comes into my mind is “the culture of biking.” You rarely see people biking in Karachi. With the availability of different means of public transportation, we don’t bother to bike. For example, motor rickshaws, a motorbike with double seats attached at the back, can ride you from one stop to another for 25-cents. This is why biking 15 minutes to and from Credo High was a cultural shock. However, I am getting used to biking, and I like it. It is helping to keep me active, and I like the independence to go anywhere I wish.

Weather much different

Another difference is the weather. Karachi, which is near the Arabian Sea, rarely has extreme temperatures due to the oceanic influence. In general, the climate of Karachi is steadily hot. Figuring out the right clothing in Cotati is always a challenge: Should I put on my jacket because it’s too cold to bike in the morning? Or should I leave my jacket at home because the weather is going to be hot during the day and I don’t want to carry it around?  I question myself every time I leave my house.

The day I felt really accomplished was the day when the Credo High Debate Club officially started. I have always been interested in knowing about world issues, participating in Model United Nations and researching; these activities make me more confident, knowledgeable and practical. This is the reason why I thought of initiating a Debate Club at Credo. Everyone supported this idea, and now Credo has a very lively Debate Club and will hopefully some day have a debate team too.

Henna tattoos a hobby

Lately, I have been making henna tattoos. These are so common in Pakistan that people don’t even notice what pretty designs you have; in America, a simple henna flower is something that people love. This is why I am doing a lot of henna for my friends. It’s difficult for me to figure out what design I should make on a boy’s hand because in Pakistan, henna and boys are like the two ends of a rope. I really need to figure out some masculine henna designs!

Making Pakistani food for my friends and family, giving presentations, doing a Pakistani dance in my community’s talent show and teaching traditional moves and styles have enabled me to play a good role as a cultural youth ambassador. However, there is a lot more to come.

With eight more months to spend in the U.S., I hope to have a great time ahead, filled to the brim with color, joy and laughter. These light-hearted times are not going to come back, and this year of my life will perhaps be the most cherished journey.

I thank everyone from my host family, the town of Cotati and Credo High School who have made this journey possible.

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Story originally shared in The Community Voice.

Celebrating International Education Week

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IEW Collage

IEW Collage

A note from YFU USA President & CEO Michael HillDear Friends, I’m thrilled to be writing you as we enter the 15th annual International Education Week (IEW). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Education, IEW provides an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

Students who participate in exchanges increase their communication skills, grow in self-confidence, expand their foreign language proficiency, and foster greater tolerance and international awareness. Here at YFU, we continue to support people of all ages to take advantage of these life-changing opportunities that not only open minds and hearts, but also help to make us citizens of one world.

At YFU, we see these stories come to life every year. Take a look at YFU YES student Abasse from Senegal who celebrated IEW last year by sharing information about his home country with a class of 70 elementary students. Word is the students were so curious and full of questions that they had to limit them to one per student! He even came back and made a traditional African dish for a 2nd grade food and nutrition class.

Then, there’s Farjana from Bangladesh, who during her exchange not only made regular classroom presentations to share her culture but also taught her friends how to write their names in her native bangla and prepared traditional dishes for her host family.

Our US students are making impressions abroad, too. Dominique from Richland, WA, has been keeping friends and family back home up-to-date with blog posts about her adventures as a student in Ecuador. She even came up with a fun educational project to improve her own language skills by drawing various items, labeling them in Spanish, and then having her classmates label them in English; providing a joint learning opportunity.

These stories are just a few of the hundreds that exist, highlighting how curiosity about the world expands cultural awareness and acceptance of other ways to live, which in turn leads to broader perspective and greater understanding. Our students become teachers while on program, educating host parents, schools, and entire communities, modeling and explaining their indigenous cultures. It’s amazing to think about how these young people are shaping our world … and their own!

Happy International Education Week, and thank you for joining us in being catalysts for positive global change.

YFU USA Celebrates International Education Week (IEW)

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YFU USA is gearing up to celebrate International Education Week November 12-16.  Recognized and promoted by the U.S Department of State, we at YFU hope that you can celebrate this special week with us by promoting YFU and your journey as a volunteer, a student, a host family or supporter of international exchange.

How can I get involved?

  • Make a classroom or community presentation about Exchange and your home/host country

  • Talk to 5 friends about what it is like to be an exchange student

Need more ideas? Visit www.iew.state.gov or email marketing@yfu.org

Youth For Understanding USA ©