Tuesday, August 18, 2009

YFU: Youth for Understanding

Have you ever heard anyone say that all teenagers should be shipped off? Well, now you can. Actually YFU: Youth for Understanding, has been doing it since 1951. That’s right folks all you have to do is sign your teenager up and they will be sent to the foreign country of your choice. If the truth be told my mother sent me in 1986, and seriously, it was great.
YFU started as a program to foster understanding between Germany and the States after WWII but since then has expanded to over 60 countries and exchanged a quarter million students. Having been one of those students I can tell you, it is a life altering experience. One I highly recommend both for your teenager and for your family. That’s right, your family can get in on the action too, by hosting a foreign exchange student in your home.
It’s not just a foreign language your child will learn either, that is possibly the least of it. The bigger lesson is about culture, how things can be completely different but equally valid. It is an experience full of life lessons that will serve them and you, all your lives. I know they are still trying to place a few students for the upcoming year, if you’re interested check out their web site here.
Though it’s been, ahem, more than 20 years since my family has been active in YFU, we are still in touch with the French boy who lived with us for a year, the Danish girl who lived with us another year, and the poor unsuspecting Belgian family that hosted me, I think they have just about recovered. Don’t worry I’m sure they’ve upgrading the screening process since the 80’s.

Here's a video a host mom made as a goodbye present for her student. It made me tear up remembering my own experiences and the bonds we formed.

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