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News - Youth For Understanding USA

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

The Power of Exchange to Fight Xenophobia and Celebrate Diversity

Rachel Arnold Cooper

YFU’s mission remains as vital as ever. For almost 70 years, the YFU experience strives to correct false impressions and stereotypes that are all too easily formed.

As an intercultural exchange program, YFU seeks to eliminate the very thing that necessitated its founding: xenophobia. Defined as “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers,” xenophobia is rebounding. This demands our attention and action today, just as it did after World War II, inspiring Rachel Andresen to facilitate exchanges between youth and communities in the United States and Germany, founding what we now know as Youth For Understanding USA. 

Go back where you came from!” was the “welcome” shouted at a YFU student from Thailand on his first day of school in the US - August 2019.

A YFU student from Mexico asked his Spanish teacher why a poster stating, “Build The Wall” was hanging in the class. Among the falsehoods on the poster was this: “If you look around the neighborhood, you can see that it is full of disgusting Mexican houses, full of the same illegal immigrants that are infecting and plaguing this country.” The teacher replied there was nothing offensive about the poster. The principal disagreed and required the poster be removed. March 2019.

These examples show an alarming trend of intolerance, one that YFU is dedicated to combat. YFU Founder Rachel Andresen believed in the power of exchange to eliminate fears and stereotypes – and she lived by the ideal that if you believe in something, you should take action. The YFU experience reinforces our common humanity in a world united by its appreciation for cultural diversity and rejection of harmful stereotypes that prevail in today’s society. Thankfully, YFU alumni, host families, and volunteers in the US and around the world embody this ideal as well. They include:

Karen, YFU host mom, who says, “Family means embracing others who share no blood, but who entrusted their child into your care. It means broadening your horizons, learning about differences and realizing being different isn't a bad thing. Family is finding out how much you are alike, even though you live on different continents and might only be able to communicate through a smile and hugs. Family isn't always about sharing ancestors....sometimes it's just about sharing love.”

Nina, YFU alum/2018 summer student to Japan, who says, “I can without a doubt say I’ve grown as a person, become more kind to people, especially to foreigners, because I now understand very clearly the difficulty and courage it takes to go someplace new. There’s no uncertainty when I say I will be using my gained knowledge to do something good in our world…”

Mary Jeanne, YFU volunteer, who says, “I get to see the goal of exchange work: teens from different countries and religions coming together on exchange and talking about peace and understanding for the future."

YFU’s mission - and its impact – remains as vital as it ever was. Our cultural exchange programs provide a reality check to a worldview based on stereotypes and hate. In helping people of all ages make the world their home, YFU helps them appreciate differences and embrace similarities. Ultimately, YFU’s programs transform who you are and permanently change the way you see, making us citizens of one world.

Join us in the fight against xenophobia - host an exchange student, volunteer, study abroad, or donate!

Why Your Family Should Host an Exchange Student

Jennifer McKendree

Why should your family host an exchange student? Let us count the reasons!

You'll grow as a family, together. Having the common experience of hosting a foreign student in your home will be a learning experience for each and every member of your family. Whether it's sampling new cuisine that your student brings to your table; hearing what it's like to live in his or her country; brushing up on your language skills or coming together as a family to explain not only your family's habits and ways but your culture's norms as well, you will be doing it together. In this era when everyone (kids and adults alike) is staring into their smartphones 24/7, the shared experience will bring your family even closer.

Your family's horizons will be broadened. Hosting a student from another country will make the world just a little bit smaller. You and your family will become aware of and appreciate a culture that is not your own, giving all of you an up-close-and-personal lesson in the importance of diversity and the ways in which it can enhance everyone's mind and heart. Your kids (and dare we say you, too?) will take that lesson in diversity into your own schools and workplaces, giving you a new understanding of the important role diversity plays there.

More fun will be infused into your household. In this hectic world, most families aren't sitting around playing games or even watching movies or TV together on any given school night. Kids have their own agendas, be it studying, going to practices, playing sports or socializing with friends. Parents are just trying to keep the household moving, getting the kids fed and to their activities, and maybe leaving a little time for themselves at the end of the day. But when you welcome an exchange student, all of a sudden spending time together becomes a priority. You linger a little longer at the dinner table talking about your culture and theirs. You do more things as a family more often. And you remind yourselves and your kids how much fun it is to have fun together.

There are so many reasons to host an exchange student, but perhaps none more important than drawing your own family closer together. Is it right for you? Visit us at Youth for Understanding to learn more.

Host Family Virtual Information Night

Jennifer McKendree

Pop into our Virtual Information Nights (VIN) and get your hosting questions answered LIVE!!  This evening’s event will feature a short presentation on what it’s like to be a host family and our program YFU staff taking your questions.

Host Family Session:

  • Thursday, June 27, 8:30 PM- 9:30 PM EST

Registration for the sessions may be found via the following link: