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News

From Cold War to travel ban, Ann Arbor-founded exchange program promotes "one-on-one diplomacy"

YFUUSAblog

Deb Anderson with a photo of her grandmother and Youth For Understanding Founder Rachel Andresen. Photo taken by Doug Coombe.

Deb Anderson with a photo of her grandmother and Youth For Understanding Founder Rachel Andresen. Photo taken by Doug Coombe.

Deb Anderson sums up Youth For Understanding (YFU), the nonprofit her grandmother founded 65 years ago in Ann Arbor, with a simple question: "How can you hate someone that you don't even know?"

The Whitmore Lake resident heard many stories growing up about the "ragtag group" of 75 German teenagers her grandmother, Rachel Andresen, brought to Michigan for a year as YFU's first group of foreign exchange students. Andresen was director of the Ann Arbor-Washtenaw Council of Churches at the time, and she was inspired to help rebuild Europe after traveling there and seeing the destruction in the late '40s.

YFU has since grown to become one of the largest intercultural exchange programs in the world. With operations in more than 60 countries and 4,000 annual participants globally today, the nonprofit organization has helped exchange 250,000 students worldwide to date. When you factor for family members and classmates those students interact with, it's reasonable to estimate millions of people have been impacted by YFU over the years.

Its United States headquarters moved from Ann Arbor to Washington, D.C., in the '70s, but YFU still has a strong local presence. In recent years the organization has also made some new local connections, tapping local leadership for its board of trustees and partnering with the University of Michigan's (U-M) Tauber Institute to help improve its operations. Read the full article.

Summer's a great time to dive into a foreign language

Alicia Kubert

For a lot of kids, summer is a time to travel intellectually as well as literally, to dive headlong into new languages and cultures in a way that classroom learning alone doesn’t allow.
— Katherine Roth, Associated Press

Heather Deno shares details on YFU's summer exchange programs and classroom excursions with the Associated Press in their recent article "Summer's a great time to dive into a foreign language.

YFU exchange student Maya Hammond, right, jumping for a photo while hiking the Great Wall of China in Beijing for the first time with her European classmate.

YFU exchange student Maya Hammond, right, jumping for a photo while hiking the Great Wall of China in Beijing for the first time with her European classmate.

YFU Alum Morten Andersen named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Alicia Kubert

NFL's all-time leading scorer (and YFU alum), Morten Andersen named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame!

"The leading scorer in NFL history didn't know the first thing about American football until he was 17 years old... Andersen was on a path to becoming an Olympic handball player in his native Denmark before he came to America in 1977 for what was supposed to be a 10-month cultural exchange program. But it wasn't long before Andersen's host father and the teacher in charge of the foreign-exchange program suggested he try kicking a football, since he had also been a standout soccer player in Denmark. So some of the other kids on the Ben Davis High School football team in Indianapolis took him out to the practice field." Read more from ESPN.

 

 

 

A Practical Approach to Peace: The Case for International Exchange

Alicia Kubert

Given last week's Executive Order (EO) barring entry to the United States of individuals from seven different countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia), there has, understandably, been much concern regarding its impact on YFU participants and programs. Rest assured no YFU student already in the United States is directly affected by this EO. It is, however, a fluid situation we will monitor closely with The Alliance for International Exchange, the advocacy voice for our exchange community and industry partners.

Today, we ask each of you through your empathy and understanding to show the world what it means to be a member of this community. YFU was founded in 1951 to offer the world a new beginning after the devastation of World War II. Cultural and person to person exchange programs like ours are as vital now as ever. Together, we can help to alter perceptions one person at a time, by providing the ultimate reality check to a worldview based on stereotypes. The opportunity for interpersonal diplomacy that young people and their host families hold in their hands can change the perception of classmates, of communities, and, ultimately, of entire countries. 

Thank you for all you do in supporting YFU’s mission of intercultural exchange. 

YFU Alum Sylvia Matthews Burwell Named American University's 15th President

Alicia Kubert

"Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was most recently the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under former President Barack Obama, has been named the 15th President of American University in Washington, DC. She succeeds Neil Kerwin as president and will assume her responsibilities on June 1, 2017.

Burwell, the first woman to hold the highest leadership position at AU, emerged as the top candidate in a very competitive national search."

Read the full announcement here.