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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: olympics

YFU - In the Spirit of the Games


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.

Why Not Volunteer at the Winter Olympics


What does one do when facing an empty nest? Well, if you’re someone like YFU Field Director, Heather Clark, who’s accustomed to the cold, loves to volunteer, interact with people from across the globe, and who believes in building a better and more a peaceful world then, ‘why not volunteer at the Winter Olympics?’Heather has attended her fair share of Olympic games and after talking with a volunteer at the Vancouver games four years ago, decided that with her kids now off in college, it was the ideal time to volunteer and embark on her own incredible adventure.

With the Winter Olympics kicking-off in Sochi this Friday, she will be spending the next month, helping to prep the Men’s Alpine Sport ski courses. “I’m honored to have a unique experience to participate in the organization and staging of a grand world-class international sports event. I get to work side by side with volunteers from all over the world toward a common goal, to be a creator of the Winter Games in Sochi and be part of the legacy of one of the best Games in history.”



Photo via Heather Clark

What’s your favorite part of the Olympic games? Share your thoughts with us.

We know YFU will be well represented by Heather and we hope you’ll follow along with us on her Olympic journey!

Former YFU Exchange Student Goes for Gold in London!


The YFU exchange community is extraordinary. Our families, students, volunteers and staff positively impact society through everyday actions large and small.  This Thursday, we cheer for Thomas Schneider, YFU Alumnus and exchange son of YFU Field Director, Jim Miller, as he races in the London Olympics!Join us as we share in the global spirit of the Games, cheering on our fellow YFU community member as he represents his home country of Germany!

When Thomas Schneider came to the U.S. from Germany six years ago, he had never seriously thought about running competitively. But this week he will represent his country in the 2012 Olympics in the men’s 4x400 meter relay.  And that passion that led him all the way to London was found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a YFU exchange in 2006.

Thomas took up soccer as soon as he arrived in the US, but he became interested in track after running around the school for soccer practices. He joined the outdoor track team in the spring, where Coach Doug Norton immediately noticed his potential. However Thomas was not easily persuaded to give up soccer.

“He kept saying ‘Coach, I’m a soccer player. I’m a soccer player!’” Norton recalled. “Finally I pulled him aside and I said you know you are a better runner than you are soccer player.”

Though Thomas had only trained for a few months, he placed third in the state tournament against many veteran high school track runners. Norton said with a little more training, he could have won first.

After returning to Germany, Thomas took his coach’s advice and enrolled in a special sports school that helped him to develop running skills. Over the years, Norton and Thomas’s host parents Jim and Joanne Miller, lost touch with him until Thomas emailed Coach Norton in 2008 to tell him that he had almost made the Bejjing Olympics.

A few years later the Miller’s granddaughter spotted Thomas running in a televised track meet and Norton realized that Thomas had made the 2012 team. “Its really cool. He was a hard worker and I didn’t know that he would go as far as he has gone,” Norton said. “You always have hopes that he would do something like that but you rarely see that happen.”

Host mother Joanne said Thomas told her he was surprised that he enjoyed running so much with his Wisconsin team in the US, because he had never been able to get into it in Germany. She is looking forward to watching him in Olympics on August 9.

“He was a good all around exchange student,” Joanne said of Thomas. “I know he enjoyed what he was doing with the team.”

*Photo source

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