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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Filtering by Tag: youth for understanding usa

Happy World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development!


Today, YFU celebrates the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

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My YFU Experience: Kylie Neidich


Interview by YFU Alumnus and Campus Ambassador Ronak Gandhi with YFU Field Director, Host Mother & Area Representative Kylie Neidich

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Two Countries One Home – Welcome to the United States


A note from YFU USA President & CEO Michael HillThis is one of my favorite times each year: the time when we get ready to receive the list of students who want to come on exchange to the United States through a YFU program. At YFU USA, we are the proud recipients of close to 2,000 students each year, who come from more than 50 countries and who express hundreds of cultures.

MEH Selfie

MEH Selfie

While many of those students have already signed up to make the world their home, there is still time to take this adventure of a lifetime! Why might you want to do that?

The world is becoming an increasingly connected place, and your future success will depend on your ability to adapt to the world and its various peoples. Coming to the US will give you a chance to experience a typical American home, to make new friendships that will last a lifetime, and to experience up close what makes the US such a special place. But you’ll also have a chance to share your culture. In YFU communities across the nation, we have host families and schools who are interested in learning from you.

One of the great things I get to do as President of YFU USA is talk to students before, during and after their program. Here’s some of what I hear from those who came here on exchange:

  • It changed my life and gave me a second family and group of friends. I will never see myself just as a citizen of my own country again; I now belong to two cultures and two nations.

  • When I got ready to apply to college, my exchange year set me apart from others. Not only did the colleges and universities know that I could handle anything that came my way, they knew I had already proven I had the curiosity and drive to succeed.

  • I still keep in touch with my host family. They visit me, and I still visit them. The world is truly my home now.

MEH student collage

MEH student collage

There are a ton of reasons to consider a year with us in the United Sates. Whatever your reason, know that we’re ready to help you take this adventure of a lifetime. We can’t wait to say, “Welcome to the United States!”

Very truly yours,

Michael E. HillPresident & CEOYFU USA

Former YFU Student Returns to the States for 50th Class Reunion


P1000802Mariele Münstermann, Alumnus from Germany, 1961, fondly recalls her year spent in America as a YFU exchange student.  While visiting the States for her 50th class reunion last June, Mariele was kind enough to take a moment to tell YFU her story.

Growing up in post-war Germany, young Mariele was always interested in America.  Born at the end of WWII, Mariele tells the story of being held by an American GI when she was just two days old.  “The GI’s gave my mother food.  Because of this, I was always interested in the USA.”  Her first interests focused around the culture of the US, and after speaking with some neighbor boys who had been to America through YFU, Mariella applied and was accepted on program.

Placed with the Heenan family in Flint, MI, Mariele attended St. Michael’s High School where she met many friends and continued to keep in contact with them for the next 50 years.  Mariele recalls, “the first two weeks on exchange were very hard and I had to work very hard.”  But then, she found her independence and began to see things from a different angle.  She quickly acclimated herself to the school, making new life-long friends in the process.


Upon her return to Germany, Mariele became a French teacher, eventually moving to France with her husband, but she always remained in touch with her classmates from St. Mike’s.  Back in America for her reunion, it was if she never left with so many of her classmates, recalling with great fondness, their year with Mariele so long ago.

Mariele’s story exemplifies not only how exchange has a lasting impact on relationships but also the future career choices of our students. Any network is strengthened when connections are continually made and sustained, and in this way YFU's impact on intercultural understanding progresses into its 7th decade.  For Mariele, 52 years later, she is still connected; to her old community of Flint, to her many friends made during her year on program and to the legacy of YFU and our Founder, Rachel Andresen.

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

Mariella 20001_

First Hand Gap Year Experience


Nikole Hampton Photo 2 - Graduation“Most kids from my hometown either went straight to work or straight to college.” This may have been true for many students in Harrisville, Michigan, but Nikole Hampton wanted more after she graduated in 2008, so she decided to take a gap year between high school and college to attend high school in Sweden. “It was the best experience of my life and forever changed me for the better,” Nikole says of her year. She had been unsure of her future plans, but she was sure of one thing: she was looking for the adventure of a lifetime and she got it.

“My parents were more in support of me going to college immediately, until they looked into gap year programs with me and realized that I was really motivated to do this. I deferred my acceptance to the University of Michigan, so they were happy to know I didn’t lose this opportunity either, and then they really started to support me.” Nikole got the best of both worlds with her gap year. She was able to take a giant leap out of her comfort zone and find out what she was made of, then attend college the following year.

Nikole Hampton Photo 3 - Art ClassNikole lived with a host family outside of Stockholm and attended Nacka Gymnasium as a third year (or a senior). In Sweden, students attend school until they are around 19 years old, which meant that her classmates were the same age, which was very important to Nikole. Despite the fact that she was the same age as most of her classmates, Swedish school took some getting used to. “Swedish high school is set up more like American colleges, with weekly schedules and classes that met twice per week.  We also had the majority of classes with our ‘class,’ or about 20-30 students studying the same track.  Mine was social science and art, so that is what my classes were mostly about except for our electives.” Her classmates quickly became her closest friends. “We were like a family!” She also made friends with kids on her track team and became close with her host sister who often invited her to hang out with her friends even though they went to different schools.

One of the best memories she has was the vacation she took with her host family. “My favorite was going on a road trip with my host family and skiing! It was so beautiful and we got to spend a lot of quality time together, cooking and playing cards and such.  School and life gets crazy busy sometimes, so it was relaxing to have some time off and just spend time with each other. And be in the outdoors of course!” It is times like these that really characterize an exchange. Although Nikole’s family’s English was near perfect, eventually they only spoke Swedish to her so she could practice. “They helped me with homework and taught me lots of words before school even started! They also got me a library card too, and I spent a lot of time reading which was another good way to learn a language.”

Nikole Hampton Photo 1 - Family VacationNot only did she get the opportunity to bond with her host family, but she was also able to bond with her natural family as well! “I visited family that lived in the south of Sweden and got to learn more about my heritage and experience a very different region. I also had some family living in the Stockholm area, so I met up with them occasionally too!”

Because Nikole joined her class during their last year of school, she was able to graduate with them! “Graduation was completely different than in the U.S. We had what was called an ‘utspring’ at school after an assembly, where they called out each class and we ran out of school and looked for a poster of us that our families secretly made (I realize this sounds strange...). Then our family put presents and letters on necklaces around our necks and we went home with them, changed out of our nice clothes, and then met up with our class again on a giant flat-bed truck that went all around Stockholm and blasted music.  After that, we go home again, and our families and friends were all over for a dinner and such in honor of the new graduate.”

Nikole Hampton Photo 5 - Class PhotoNikole took a risk and challenged herself and it paid off immensely. She learned a new language, made incredible friends, even ate reindeer! Now, she is finishing up a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Michigan. As a graduation present to herself, she is traveling back to Sweden this summer to visit her friends and host family, that she hasn’t seen in four years, to relive all of the wonderful memories she had there. This experience for her was unforgettable and transformative. She came back from Sweden motivated, confident and ready to continue with the ideas that ignited her passion for social issues while abroad.

Written by Zoe ColtonQuotes from Nikole Hampton

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

YFU Student Hosts iEarn Webinar


8190823817_2c5f0b5856"To celebrate International Education Week, two students from opposite ends of youth exchanges collaborated to present their experience during the iEARN/Global Education Virtual Conference.

On Thursday, November 15, 2012 an American and Moroccan youth shared their story of inbound and outbound exchange. Jennifer is an American youth who studied in Rabat, Morroco at the Qalam Wala Center for Arabic Studies under the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Program. Sara is a Moroccan who is completing a year-long exchange program in Washington D.C. under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. Both programs are funded through the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA).

During the virtual workshop, students compared their experiences of cultural immersion in each other’s countries and how they adjusted and adapted their academic and social life. The sessions explored the value of educational exchanges and impact from different student perspectives; how American exchange students’ experiences compare with their counterparts in Morocco; and the similarities and differences of the exchange experience in the US and Morocco."

Story of the experience and posted it on the YES program:

View a recording of the webinar:

Source: iEarn

YFU USA Celebrates International Education Week (IEW)


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 or email

Youth For Understanding USA ©

Mazda Foundation’s Generous Grant to Provide 6 YFU USA Scholarships to Japan


Youth For Understanding is proud to announce our 28th year of scholarship sponsorship by the Mazda Foundation (USA), Inc.  This year, the Mazda Foundation will sponsor scholarships for students to study in Japan for our 6 week summer program.  Please visit the links below for more information on this amazing scholarship opportunity!MAZDA FOUNDATION (USA), INC. AWARDS GRANTS TO A DOZEN COMMUNITY ... 

2013 Mazda/ Nationwide Community Scholarship Information Sheet