Discover Youth For Understanding
Your Continued Support Makes all the difference in the world!
Thank you for connecting once again with YFU! As a member of our community, you have seen firsthand how cultural exchange opens the minds and hearts of YFU students, the community, and your own family.
Are you considering hosting again? Students are available for you to preview by submitting your information on the right of the screen. You may also renew your host family application by clicking the “Apply Now” button located at the top right of the page.
Not ready to host again but still wish to help with our global mission? Continue to make a difference in the world by assisting YFU in finding host families and encouraging young people that you know to study abroad. Below are some easy ways to remain active with YFU.
Here’s how you can remain active with YFU:
- Hang flyers on public notice boards
- Pass out YFU Hosting and Study Abroad information at school or community activities
- Facilitate an announcement about hosting to your parish in the bulletin or newsletter
- Post the new YFU host family video on your Facebook page
- Expand your role with YFU by becoming a volunteer
Thank you for your continued interest and support of YFU! To learn more about opportunities to engage within the YFU community, contact your local representative at 800.872.0200.
A DREAM COME TRUE
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How 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. 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.
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.
A DREAM COME TRUE
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The 1961 Michigan Youth Chorale left home to spend seven weeks in five countries of South America and Mexico. By the time we returned that summer, the Berlin Wall had gone up, and we had had a fleeting encounter with a brother of our youthful, first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy (Robert? Edward?) as our respective retinues passed each other in the Lima, Peru airport.
This was heady stuff for us Midwestern innocents travelling abroad as musical ambassadors. The warmth with which our Latin American audiences and host families greeted us certainly fueled our confidence, and in a good way, I think, added to our self-awareness of this unique mission.
For me this translated into a double-self- consciousness as also being the only joven de color, or young person of color, as various critics singled me out in their reviews of our major concerts. I loved combing through those articles either with the help of a host guide or translator, or by using my high school Latin to make out what I could of the Spanish text. No surprise that I would later major in Spanish and Linguistics in college.
In fact, I was a token presence. Something one simply accepted in the social climate of an America whose 1960’s Civil Rights Movement was still in its infancy. I was comfortable with that, and I felt totally protected by the goodwill of the multiple folk who welcomed me as host families or post-concert audience members who sought us out along our journey.
By contrast, something very head-clearing awaited us at our re-entry into the country which I and my fellow chorale members had just represented.
The trip home required an overnight on the SMU campus in Dallas, and a morning recording session in a local television studio. The first of us to drop our bags and head out for our first burgers and shakes on U.S. soil went to a student lunch counter where the black workers froze at our appearance. The campus, it turned out, was still segregated, and so they had to fumble their way into refusing us service so long as I was there.
The situation quickly sank in on us all, and my companions chose not to eat there and spread the word to the others. I don’t remember what we did for a meal that night, but at least one lunch counter in Dallas missed a big chance on a slow summer evening.
The following morning we were bused to the studio to be recorded for a later broadcast. We stayed on site to see a replay. What followed was a far crueler rebuff than I had met the night before. I was invisible in the replay. It had been edited so the Dallas viewing public would see nothing of a joven de color who was eagerly watching the replay. This left my guts in shreds, and hot, angry tears brimming in my eyes. Our Dallas re-entry marked a moment of lost innocence.
As it turns out, the video is still around and we have played it at our reunions. It is still difficult to watch, but I think it is an important artifact to preserve. In post-Ferguson America, our loss of national innocence is unmistakable. It is a reality that YFU is uniquely poised to help transform, and I hope we will give YFU our every encouragement to do just that.