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News - Youth For Understanding USA

Latest news about Youth for Understanding USA student exchange programs worldwide – Events – Partnerships.

YFU USA Honors Late Senator Richard Lugar

Jennifer McKendree

YFU USA was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Senator Richard Lugar on Sunday, April 28.  Senator Lugar was a devoted and crusading supporter of youth exchange. He co-sponsored the bill that created the YES program. The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, provides scholarships for secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations.

In the early 2000s, Senator Lugar was also a key supporter of Senator Bill Bradley in the creation of the FLEX program in 1992. The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program provides scholarships for high school students from Europe and Eurasia. Before that, he was a strong proponent for the creation of the CBYX program in 1983, which was launched to mark the 300th year of German immigration to the USA by creating a U.S./German bilateral exchange program.

YFU USA and the entire exchange community wish to recognize his great commitment to make the world a better place through citizen diplomacy.

 Additional information and tributes for the late Senator Lugar may be found at:

 

 

Reasons Why Being a Host Sibling is the Best

Jennifer McKendree

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Hosting an exchange student for a year or even a semester is a transformative experience for everyone in your family, but maybe for your kids most of all. When your exchange student leaves for home after being a part of your family, your kids won't be the same. In a good way. Here are some reasons why being a host brother or sister is great for your kids:

  • They'll get up close and personal with diversity. It's one thing for your kids to hear about the importance of embracing diversity on the news or in school, but it's another thing entirely to see it in your own home. Hosting an exchange student from a different country allows kids to experience and embrace another culture. It will make them more tolerant of differences between people, becoming curious instead of wary when those differences arise. If your exchange student practices a religion that's not your own, for example, it can be a learning opportunity for your kids. Suddenly, the world is not made up of "us" and "them." Your kids' horizons will be broadened and they'll gain a new view that they'll keep in mind long after your exchange student returns home.

  • They'll become more empathetic. Going hand in hand with embracing diversity, hosting a student from another culture will inevitably lead to having to compromise, do things another way, or otherwise accommodate your foreign student. It will teach your child that it's not always their way or the highway, and for teenagers, that's huge.

  • Their foreign language skills will be kicked up a notch. If you're hosting a student who speaks a language your child is already studying, it's a golden opportunity to learn from a native. Instead of learning schoolbook French, your child will learn to speak like a real French student, slang and all. If your kids are not already studying a foreign language, hosting an exchange student is a perfect way to expose them to it and start them on the path of learning. It's a win-win for your kids and your exchange student, too, who is likely wanting to improve his or her English skills at the same time.

  • Only children can experience what it's like to have a sibling, even for a short while. Families say this is one of the biggest benefits to their children. Being a one-and-only, your child hasn't grown up sharing, whether it's toys or time with parents. They haven't whispered in the dark with a sibling when they should be sleeping. They haven't had a partner. Hosting an exchange student will give them all of that.

  • Your kids will learn what it feels like to be the big or little brother or sister. Depending on the age of your student in relation to the ages of your children, they'll get to experience being in a new order in your family. 

Hosting an exchange student will help your kids grow, learn and become more well rounded. Visit our Meet the Students page today to find your newest family member.

Celebrating our Founder and the Volunteer Spirit

Rachel Arnold Cooper

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Excerpt from 1986 interview with Rachel Andresen.

Our Founder and inspiration, Dr. Rachel Andresen, would’ve been 112 today! It is also the beginning of National Volunteer Week. Rachel looked at YFU as an organization that grew from the strong interest in the family. The exchange program spread from family to family and from community to community and around the world.

YFU has succeeded as a family-based organization, as well as a volunteer based organization, “because giving and sharing is close to the hearts of people. Families initially take students to give something, and then they receive so much more than they give. Their family life is enriched, their knowledge of the world expanded and their appreciate of another country and of its people increased,” said Dr. Andresen.

Of YFU volunteers, Dr. Andresen said they are part of the organization “because they love people and have a real concern for others. The people involved in the program are on a real grassroots level of the operation, and they are an invaluable resource."

“Volunteers are basic to YFU, its operation and its continuation. We couldn't operate our program without volunteers not one day in the year.”

No matter what role one plays in the youth exchange experience, the opportunities are shared by everyone, according to Dr. Andresen. “This program is an opportunity for an expression of the idealistic part of our own mind. It’s an opportunity for us to give the very best of what we are and to share that with somebody else.”

Love, Curiosity, and Kindness

Rachel Arnold Cooper

"Love, curiosity, and kindness make it a great one." 

That's what Elisabeth Egel says about the planet we all share since experiencing life in the United States on her exchange program from Estonia.

Hosted by the Whatley family in Armada, MI, Elisabeth has gone above and beyond the requirements of her U.S. Department of State-sponsored FLEX scholarship. She is excelling academically while enrolled in Advanced Placement History and Honors English classes. Required to give one presentation about her country; Elisabeth has completed seven, which included slides, music, dance lessons, and sweet treats (photo top left). A trained classical pianist, Elisabeth is now learning jazz and 20th-Century compositions, thanks to the piano the Whatley family rented for her. "With the help of my coaches and classmates, I have run in several 5K cross country meets, one of which involved running through a stream and a lot of mud," said Elisabeth. She even led the Whatley family dog through an agility course with the help of an instructor.

What makes Elisabeth's program so exceptional? She is totally blind.

Elisabeth said, "When I found out that I had a chance to go to the United States...I was not sure if I had the strength and independence that this step required." She found the perfect host parent in Evon Whatley. "Elisabeth is totally blind and I grew up with both blind parents so this was not a problem, in fact, I was quite comfortable and confident in meeting her needs," said Evon.

Elisabeth reflected on her past six months and said, "I feel the core values of people are similar and that is what keeps the whole world together." Evon said, "We remind Elisabeth to never stop trying or dreaming, my quote to her is 'The Sky Is The Limit And There Is No Limit To The Sky'. We love her dearly."

Learn more about opening your heart and home to an international exchange student and becoming a host family.

Find out more about the Future Leaders of Exchange (FLEX) program sponsored by US Department of State.

YFU: Why you should consider taking a gap year to study abroad

Jennifer McKendree

Finishing high school and entering college is a big, oftentimes confusing transition. Students have studied and worked for the big event, graduation; and after marching across the stage in cap and gown, many students wind up feeling exhausted and even overwhelmed by it all. That's perfectly normal. Yet, the majority of kids going on to college do so the very next fall semester, without stepping back and assessing what they really want out of life. Taking a gap year between high school and college to study abroad is just the fix for that.

What's a gap year? It's time off between stages of life. A student defers college admission to travel the world, volunteer or study abroad. It's very common in other countries like the U.K., less so here. It's also known as a 13th Year Program.

Taking a gap year to study abroad is a great option for graduating seniors. Here's why:

Students get a break in the action before jumping headlong into college. Even though they're still technically in school, the whole experience of living in another country makes it fresh and new.

Students get time to reflect. High school, especially the last few years of it, can be hectic and competitive for top students. A gap year allows students to take a breath, free from all of that competition (whether it's with him or herself or others) and take stock in who they really are and what they want.

It prepares students for independence. Living away from home for the first time can be a jarring, even traumatic experience. Many college freshmen are homesick, feeling pulled away from everything that's familiar and safe. If they've spent a year living abroad, going away to college is no big deal. It's crucial that they are affiliated with a program like YFU. We give students the tools to succeed with a full orientation program before they embark, and a safe environment with a vetted host family.

Living abroad changes people for the better. Living with a host family in another country, and just going about the daily business of living in a country that is not your own, opens your mind, expands your view and broadens your horizons. It's an education in itself. A student will grow and evolve as a person, learning norms of a different culture, and will come home with a new perspective on life.

It looks good on a resume. After a student returns home and attends college or trade school, there will come a time when he or she is ready to start looking for a first real job. At this stage of the game, resumes can look a little flimsy. But a year of study abroad tells prospective employers that the job candidate in front of them, who might not have any work experience, is a self-starter, independent, responsible and reliable.

Intrigued? Find out more about YFU's 13th Year programs here.