Youth For Understanding

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Youth For Understanding
Youth For Understanding (Note: logos of partner organizations vary)
Founded1951 (1951)
FounderRachel Andresen
OriginsAnn Arbor, Michigan
Area served
MethodInternational Exchange Programs
Key people
Rachel Andresen, Eric Simon, Ulrich Zahlten

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.

The umbrella body for national Youth For Understanding organisations across Europe is EEE-YFU.

History of YFU[edit]

Youth for Understanding was founded by Rachel Andresen. 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 US 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 USA 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]

European Educational Exchanges – Youth for Understanding[edit]

European Educational Exchanges - Youth for Understanding (EEE-YFU)
Founded1985 (1985)
TypeEducational NGO
Area served
Europe and International
Key people
Chair – Marc Weiss, Vice Chair - Sara Brandt Treasurer – Liviu Grigorescu Board members – Knut Möller, Gregory Matheson, Laura Gabriela Balanescu[14]

European Educational Exchanges – Youth for Understanding (EEE-YFU) is an international youth exchange non-profit organisation, founded in 1985.[15] It is the umbrella body for national Youth For Understanding organisations across Europe and consists of 28 members.

The mission of EEE-YFU is to advance intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families, and communities.

YFU was founded shortly after the end of World War II, in 1951.[citation needed] It is one of the world's oldest education exchange organisations and currently[when?] has programmes in about 60 countries around the world.[citation needed] Founded to allow young Germans the opportunity to experience another culture outside of their own, YFU organised for them to go on exchange to the United States in order to see what life was like there and to develop an understanding of democracy. Since then YFU has grown and now sends young people between 15 and 18 years old on international high school exchanges to other countries, where the students will live with and become a part of a host family. National YFU organisations from around the world are all independent from one another. However, there does exist an International Secretariat in order to facilitate co-operation and communication amongst them on a global scale, and to provide them with support.

EEE-YFU is a member organisation, and its members are national YFU organisations in Europe. Unlike the national YFU organisations, it is not involved with the actual logistics and organising of the exchanges. Instead, it is a member organisation which focuses on representing the interests of its members in several different ways. In supporting its members, EEE-YFU has the following aims: to promote intercultural understanding through youth exchange programmes in Europe; to enhance the public visibility for Youth For Understanding in Europe and with European institutions and organisations; to enrich the experience of European exchange students by facilitating educational and content related activities; to facilitate co-operation and networking between member organisations and to provide membership services; to facilitate intra-European activities such as seminars, meetings and conferences on various topics; and to assist in planning and conducting international training for staff and volunteers.

The organisation has its offices in Brussels, Belgium, where it works towards representing its members' interests at European level and to facilitate co-ordination between its national members.

EEE-YFU consists of a Board, which has the ultimate responsibility for the overall strategic direction of the organisation, as well as the European Secretariat based in its office in Brussels. The Secretariat regularly has interns and volunteers (often from the European Voluntary Service programme) working in the office.

EEE-YFU is an international non-profit organisation under Belgian law (AISBL).

EEE-YFU works alongside a number of external organisations, and is regularly granted funding for projects and initiatives by European institutions and other bodies. Its partners include the Council of Europe Directorate of Youth & Sports, the European Commission, the European Youth Forum and the Platform for Intercultural Europe, as well as many others. It receives funding from the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Belgian state, as well as other bodies. EEE-YFU also works closely with other NGOs involved in the youth field, particularly in relation to organising activities.

EEE-YFU works in three main areas: Capacity building; advocacy and representation; and knowledge building and networking.

The organisation fulfills its objectives by organising and facilitating educational activities to provide on-going education in cross-cultural issues to its students, returnees and volunteers. These help to promote intercultural dialogue and youth participation for a wide range of young people across Europe. EEE-YFU organises activities such as study sessions, trainings and seminars on various cultural and youth-related issues both nationally and on a European level. In doing so it often works closely with its member organisations. An important feature of EEE-YFU's activities is to encourage those students who have participated in exchanges to continue to be involved with YFU by volunteering once they return home. This will help to continue the cycle of learning and will allow YFU to reach out to more young people.

EEE-YFU has its own "European Trainer Network", composed of 13 young trainers from 10 different countries,[16] which provides its member organisations with a pool of young people with relevant expertise and knowledge that they can use to organise and facilitate a range of events. This aims to help to increase the capacity for multiplication of competences and knowledge within the international YFU network, and for contributing to the development of training structures of national YFU organisations to provide high quality educational activities. EEE-YFU also has a "Pool of Representatives", composed of 33 young people from various member organisations. The members are an important tool for EEE-YFU's advocacy work, representing EEE-YFU on various seminars, working groups, meetings, conferences and other events.[17]

The following YFU national organisations are members of EEE-YFU: Austria, Belarus, Belgium (Flanders & Wallonia), Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.


  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.
  14. ^ "Board". EEE-YFU.
  15. ^ "European Educational Exchanges – Youth for Understanding (EEE-YFU)". Platform for Intercultural Europe. Retrieved 20 July 2014. External link in |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ "European Trainer Network". EEE-YFU.
  17. ^ "Pool of Representatives". EEE-YFU.

External links[edit]