Youth For Understanding

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Youth For Understanding
Youth For Understanding (Note: logos of partner organizations vary)
Founded 1951 (1951)
Founder Rachel Andresen
Origins Ann Arbor, Michigan
Area served
Method International Exchange Programs
Key people
Rachel Andresen, Eric Simon, Ulrich Zalthen
Slogan Make the world your home.[1]
Mission Make the world your home.
YFU advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families, and communities.[1]

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is an international educational exchange organization. A network of over 50 independent national organizations worldwide, YFU representatives work together to advance learning across cultures.[2] Within each country's culture, YFU organizations subscribe to and operate under a common set of principles and standards that aim to facilitate cooperation and harmony.[3] Each year, YFU exchanges approximately 4,500 students worldwide.


YFU conducts its exchange programs via direct contact between independent national organizations in over 50 countries. These autonomous organizations represent the international community network of YFU. Other YFU international activities are carried out by a volunteer International Advisory Council and a professional staff known as the International Secretariat.[4] YFU organizations around the world subscribe to a set of basic operating and philosophic standards that embody YFU’s commitment to conducting high quality programs.[5] The standards set the basic requirements that YFU programs must meet.

History of YFU[edit]

In 1951 it was proposed to church leaders in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA that teenagers from Germany be brought to the United States to live with a family and attend high school for a year. As a result, 75 German teenagers arrived in Michigan in July 1951 and were hosted by volunteer U.S. families.[2]

The exchange program itself originated in late summer 1951 by the High Commission in Germany as the "Urban/Rural Teen-Age Exchange Program". Already in its first year it was supported by members of the Michigan Council of Churches (MCC) under the motto "Youth for Understanding". Within the next 10 years it evolved into two organizations YFU-USA and YFU-Germany. The first "exchange" from the USA to Germany was a summer program with 30 US high school students organized by MCC-alumni. During that year, Germany became a sovereign country, and the US government stopped funding the exchange program with Germany, which continued as a not-for-profit activity between the two YFU organizations. In 1961/62, a one-year exchange program from the US to Germany was added with 6 initial students from the US. The first exchanges across the Pacific (with Japan) and to Mexico were established in 1958, and South America in 1959.[6]

YFU, Inc., the non-profit educational organization, was established in 1964, and the organization's offices were moved to Rosedale in Washington, D.C. in 1978.[6]

During most of the 1990s, YFU, Inc. served as the primary administrative organization for applications and interviews in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship program, overseen by the now defunct United States Information Agency (USIA). With the dissolution of the USIA toward the end of 1999, the CBYX scholarship program began to be reorganized on a regional basis, and YFU ceased its central administrative control[citation needed].

On March 8, 2002 YFU, Inc. ceased operations and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy later that year.[7] The YFU organization in United States was reorganized as YFU USA Inc., which opened on March 9, 2002. The organization's offices were moved to Bethesda, Maryland later in 2002. Ulrich Zahlten, founder and former chair of YFU Germany, became the new chairman of the board of YFU USA. This reorganization also reversed the organization's misfortunes; the annual report for 2005 reports four consecutive years of budget surpluses[citation needed].

YFU USA has five district offices: Founders, Heartland, Horizon, Northeast and Southeast. YFU remains a volunteer-based organization[8] as YFU USA has almost 1,400 active volunteers.[6]


The guidelines for the work of the national YFU organizations will be decided by the International Advisory Council. The committee, which meets twice a year, consists of 15 representatives from national organizations. The United States, Germany and Japan as the largest members are constantly represented; the remaining sites are occupied in turn by other partners. The International Advisory Council is supported by the International Secretariat.[9]

Current YFU USA programs[edit]

YFU offers a range of educational opportunities for students, families, volunteers, and schools. High school study abroad programs are offered during the summer and include options for group or individual travel. The summer programs cost between $5,500-$9,000 and are four to eight weeks.[10] Semester long and gap-year programs are also offered. All YFU programs center on the family living experience.

The YFU USA Study Abroad Program provides opportunities for United States high school students to live with a host family and study abroad for a year, semester, or summer. Each year, YFU USA awards over 250 full and partial scholarships. Many of these scholarships are to Japan and Germany, which are among the most popular destinations for American students. However, new sponsorships, from both the government and corporate sectors, have allowed more scholarships to be awarded for study in other countries.[11]

The YFU USA International Student Program offers American families the opportunity to host an exchange student.[12] In 2013, YFU USA welcomed more than 1,800 students from over 60 countries[citation needed].

The YFU USA Community College Program is present at community colleges across the United States.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Mission and Values". Youth for Understanding. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "About YFU". Youth For Understanding. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Agreement on International Cooperation and Consensus‐Building (AICCB). Youth for Understanding. 2012. 
  4. ^ "YFU in brief". Youth for Understanding. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  5. ^ International Basic Standards For Educational Exchanges of Youth For Understanding. Youth For Understanding. 2005. 
  6. ^ a b c "History". YFU USA. 
  7. ^ "Report No. AUD/CG-03-12" (PDF). United States Department of State, Office of Inspector General. December 2002. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  8. ^ "Volunteer". YFU USA. 
  9. ^ Deutsches Youth For Understanding Komitee (2005–2009): Das weltweite YFU-Netzwerk. Zusammenarbeit mit über 50 eigenständigen Partnerorganisationen. URL: (Stand 25. April 2014)
  10. ^ "Summer's a great time to dive into foreign languages | Reading Eagle - LIFE". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  11. ^ "Study abroad". YFU USA. 
  12. ^ "Host a student". YFU USA. 
  13. ^ "Community College program". YFU USA. 

External links[edit]