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News - Youth For Understanding USA

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

Have Study Abroad Questions? We Can Help!

Jennifer McKendree

Pop into one of our Virtual Information Nights (VINs) and have your study abroad questions answered LIVE!  Events feature YFU USA alumni, registration staff, and partner country participants to give you a first hand perspective on the application process AND what you might expect to experience once you reach your study abroad destination.

Study Abroad Session:

  • Thursday, Jan 17, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST- Final Scholarship VIN!!

  • Tuesday, Jan 22, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Tuesday, Feb 5, 9:00 PM- 10:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Thursday, Feb 21, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Monday, Mar 4, 9:00 PM- 10:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Tuesday, Mar 12, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

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

Handling Homesickness Around the Holidays

Jennifer McKendree

When you're hosting a foreign exchange student, the holidays can be tricky. No matter how well-adjusted your student is to life in your home, in his or her new school, and in the United States, the holidays are a time when homesickness can take hold. This is especially true if your student has strong holiday traditions with his or her family back home. As a host family, it's up to you to help your student through what can be a rocky, lonely time. Here are some ways to do just that.

Host a holiday get-together with other students and their host families. Involve your student in the planning, the guest list and the menu. One idea is to ask attendees to bring a dish that is popular on the holidays in their home countries. You're accomplishing much with this one request. You're filling up what could be a lonely time for your students, and other students, by creating community. You're also encouraging other students to share their holiday customs with their host families, and you're reminding all of the exchange students you invite that they're not alone.

Ask your student about holiday customs in his or her home country, and incorporate those traditions into your celebration. Even if you've done the holidays the same way your entire life, now is the time to grow and expand. Ask your student to explain their holiday traditions to your family, the typical dishes they serve, how they celebrate, whether gifts are involved, the typical music of the time, and other things. It's a way for students to immerse themselves in their own traditions, even though they're a world away. It's also a great learning opportunity for you and your family to become familiar with your student's culture.

Set aside a day to cook your student's favorite holiday dishes. Whether they're sweet or savory, traditional holiday foods bring people back to their childhoods and their homes. Spend a Saturday in the kitchen with your student, cooking and baking the foods he or she loves.

Take your student on a trip to New York City or a nearby town that does it up right for Christmas. Some cities and towns go all out for Christmas, whether it's the country's largest light display on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota; or the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the decorated department store windows and skating rink in New York City. If you can swing it, take your student to experience the splendor of the holidays in a place that does it up right.

Have your student participate in your family's special holiday traditions. When you've made your student's favorite holiday dishes, now it's time to incorporate your student into your traditions. Take a day to bake cookies, involve them in shopping for your holiday dinner, have your student participate in your family's Secret Santa gift exchange — your student should be involved in anything your family does to celebrate. Remind family members to include your student in gift giving, also.

At Youth For Understanding, we're here to help you give your student the best possible study abroad experience. Contact us to find out more. 

Convincing your parents to let you study abroad

Jennifer McKendree

Maybe you've heard about it at school, maybe one or more of your friends have done it, but however you found out about a study abroad program, and then decided it's what you want to do, there is one more hurdle to jump over. And it can be a big one: Your parents. To them, it means you're traveling across the globe alone to live with a family they've never met, no matter how good and responsible a student (and child) you are. For any parent, it's a terrifying proposition. Here are some ways to calm their fears, build your case and get to "yes."

Do your homework. Before you approach your parents, learn everything there is to know about your program, how long it has been around, how many students and host families it has served, and other facts. Know the process, and outline the resources you'll have in your host country should any need arise.

Investigate scholarships. Youth For Understanding offers 200 full and partial merit-based scholarships and needs-based financial aid to students each year. Find out the eligibility requirements and go into the discussion with your parents armed with those financial facts. Other options exist, too, like GoFundMe campaigns. You can turn fundraising for your study abroad into a powerful learning experience.

Outline your reasons for wanting to study abroad. Guaranteed, the first question they'll ask you is, "Why?" Have your reasons down cold. Is it about learning the language? Cultural immersion? A need to strike out on your own? All of the above? Make sure you can articulate, in clear parent-ish language, why you want to do it. Practice your "why" speech in front of a mirror just like you'd practice for speech class.

One word: Skype. Video chat platforms like Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger can put you in touch with your parents in ways a weekly phone call can't. Let them know you'll report in on a regular basis. You can set a time for a weekly video call, Sunday nights, say, and also leave the door open for spur-of-the-moment calls as well.

It's resume gold. An international education will look very impressive on your resume when the time comes to get a job. It shows skills like independence and self-reliance, and also shows things like maturity and global awareness. Your resume will stand out from the pack, and if your parents are in the corporate world, that will really mean something to them.

Tell them the personal benefits for you. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that won't come around when you are out of school. Yes, you can always travel, but you're not going to be able to live for a year with a host family while immersing yourself in another culture. It's something you can only get as a student, and it is life-changing. Living in another country will broaden your horizons and allow you see the world from a new perspective. The personal growth trajectory is through the roof. You won't come back the same kid as you were when you left. Also, you'll make friends, including your host family, that you'll keep all of your life.

Lastly, if they have any questions, have them contact us. We're here to help.


Jennifer McKendree

YFU honored Farmington Public Schools with its 2018 Partnership Award. The award is given to an organization or corporation that has demonstrated a longstanding partnership with YFU and a strong commitment to provide young people with global intercultural exchange experiences.

The YFU-Farmington Public Schools partnership dates back to at least 1968 when the school system enrolled international exchange students to spend a year of high school studies in the United States. Over the years, leadership at Farmington Public Schools has supported the mission of YFU through enrollment of international students and support of their own students to study abroad in another country.

“Farmington Public Schools has been proud to partner with Youth For Understanding USA for more than 50 years.  This partnership has strengthened our students’ global education both because of the exchange students we receive and also because of the outbound exchange opportunities offered to many Farmington students.  We are honored to be recognized for the warm welcome FPS offers the world.”
George C. Heitsch, Ed.D., Superintendent, Farmington Public Schools

 YFU initially announced the award at its recent 2018 Volunteer Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The award was formally presented to the Farmington Public School Board by Bill Malloy, YFU Chief of Staff and Barb Kilkka, Community Engagement Director, and 7 current and former YFU students on November 13.

“As nominated by Barb Kilkka, YFU local staff representative for the Oakland County, MI area, it is abundantly clear that Farmington Public Schools is strongly committed to providing young people with global intercultural exchange experiences by opening its doors to YFU's students and volunteers for over 50 years. We are thrilled to have Farmington Public Schools as an important part of our YFU community!”
Scott J. Messing, YFU President and CEO

16 things to do with your exchange student

Jennifer McKendree

You’ve hosted your exchange student for a few months now, and you may be out of ideas for things to do. Remember that there are reasons your exchange student came to America. Education is paramount; however, they likely want to experience our culture and experience typical American life. When you involve your student in family activities, you help fulfill their goals.

  1. National and state parks. Our parks are a treasure, and there’s one near you. They feature breathtaking beauty and learning opportunities.

  2. Historical sites. Learn about American history at landmarks and monuments.

  3. State or county fairs. What’s more American than a fair? Regions across the nation hold festivals and fairs.

  4. City mouse. If you’re hosting a student in the city, go to the country to experience wide-open spaces. If you live in the country, go to the city to experience the bright lights. This welcome change of pace shows our varied landscape.

  5. Orchard. Visit an apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Try cider, pick apples and take a hay ride.

  6. Museum. There may be an exhibit from your student’s country in one of the 35,000 museums in America.

  7. Fishing. Fish from shore, rent a boat or drill a hole in the ice.

  8. Sporting events. Attend a professional, college or high school sporting event. Pick a sport that is played all over the world, like soccer; or choose a sport unique to America. It’s a challenge to explain baseball to someone who has never seen it played before.

  9. Music. Maybe a popular artist is making a tour stop near you, or you can attend a free concert at a local band shell. Make sure it’s music your student likes.

  10. Candy. Exchange students love dessert. Visit a candy or ice cream shop for a treat. Or make a pan of brownies and watch the smile spread across your student’s face.

  11. Meals. Visit a restaurant that features cuisine from your student’s country, or invite your student into your kitchen to help make a traditional dish from their country. They will be glad to experience a taste of home.

  12. Worship. If you attend church or synagogue, invite your exchange student to come along. It may be an interesting experience.

  13. Plays/movies. Attend a play put on by a local company or high school. Go to a popular blockbuster or an off-beat film festival. Experience a drive-in movie theater.

  14. Seasonal activities. Grill out or pack a picnic basket. Rent kayaks. Go leaf watching. Take a sleigh ride, go sledding or ice skating.

  15. The mall. Your student may like to try on clothes.

  16. Visit family. Your student might enjoy meeting your extended family. Bring them along to birthday and holiday celebrations.

Take photos during activities with your exchange student so they can send them home. To help your student feel like a member of your family, put photos on the refrigerator or place them in frames around the house.