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News - Youth For Understanding USA

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

Filtering by Tag: exchange student

Celebrating our Founder and the Volunteer Spirit

Rachel Arnold Cooper


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.

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.