Youth For Understanding (YFU)

Program Reviews

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Plamena
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I spent a year with YFU in Spain. They are a total mess. They charge exorbitant amount of fees and then do not deliver on any of their promises. The host family's background check was sketchy - to put it mildly (according to YFU the host mom lying about her age and birth date was OK and "met the local background check requirements"). They failed to mediate when I had issues with the host family, failed to inform my parents about the issues, and then simply ordered me to pack my stuff within 48 hrs and move to a new city!

The only person I could contact was the local rep - despite their claims that they provide 24/7 support.

When I contacted my parents and they talked to YFU in Washington DC they not only did not help resolve the situation, did not apologize, but insisted they had done everything they were supposed to do.

Response from Youth For Understanding (YFU)

YFU does, indeed, provide 24/7 emergency support for our students and it is, in fact, one of the things we pride ourselves on. The key word here is “emergency”, and if the situation is discovered to not be a true emergency and the student is currently safe with their host family, the situation will be addressed the following business day.

There are some situations like the one in this review that requires our students to change homes, especially when both the host family and the student discover that it is no longer a good fit. Sometimes there are situations that cannot be resolved between the student and family through mediation and a move is made as soon as possible. We want our students and host families to have the best year they can, and sometimes a move is required for that goal to be achieved.

Background checks vary from country to country, but YFU offices across the globe follow background checks established by the local authorities. What we consider to be a background check here in the USA may be a bit different than what an official in Spain considers it to be. However, each family is interviewed in person prior to placement and each student is assigned a local volunteer to monitor and mentor them during their time on exchange.

As for the fees, we have done a lot of work these last few years to lower our tuition costs. Fees include domestic and international airfare, health insurance, 24/7 emergency support, orientations, finding a host family (that’s a good fit) and enrollment in school.

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Marci
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

The YFU Australia program is a mess! YFU USA offered none of the orientation that was promised before or after travel, and YFU Australia offered none of the orientation promised, nor any of the program support during the trip. The host family did not seem to have been background checked, and when it was clear that a move was in order, the program was not helpful or responsive. Rather than delivering on the promise to work together for a successful experience, they created a dangerous and damaging situation!

The only contact there was with YFU staff in Australia was with the local volunteer, and when the program could not provide a host family for the second leg of the trip, they refused to refund the money we had paid.
Mixed response: relieved to be home, and profoundly disappointed at the loss of a great opportunity.

What would you improve about this program?
YFU USA needs to partner with organizations that can deliver on the promises they are making.
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Sarida
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

YFU program is super supportive program in my opinion. They took care of me very great and I was super fun that once I could have such a great opportunity to become a YFU exchange student in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin 🇺🇸. This program provides the home that located in the safety state which is very nice to me and of course my parents that we would not be worried about that at all year long. In every two or three months the program will have a student conference in Milwaukee so I can hang out with other people from all around the world (I mean we could get to know so many international people from around the world)

Leo
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was very fortunate that I was given an opportunity to spend my exchange year and created lifelong friendships. Mostly due to all the supports from many of my friends, I really feel confident about announcing that my exchange year has been tremendously successful regardless of the difficulties and issues that I was confronted with. I cannot express how much this exchange year meant to me. All I can say is that It has definitely given me a new perspective about life itself. Realization of something that is difficult to notice unless u get out of your comfort zone and dive into whole another world. I, also, cannot describe how grateful I am to all my friends, teachers and host families who made this year so amazing and unforgettable. I couldn’t have chosen any other people to spend the best 9 months of my life. My exchange year wouldn’t have been the same without everyone I met.

What would you improve about this program?
make sure the host family can provide good enough environment to host students
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Sarah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was a student who didn't know exactly what they were doing when I got there, and I didn't speak any of the language. I had problems with my host family because they didn't understand my cultural differences and rather than move me, they made my sit there with them despite the fact that they didn't want me there I was left there for a month, and blamed me for my families treatment of me. I finally moved and had a fantastic experience with another family in the way north. I learned alot of the language, I learned more about myself then I ever would have at home, and finally learned how to be happy. Now I have a second home, another family, and an amazing best friend from my time there, and my life will never be the same.

What would you improve about this program?
YFU Germany needs to step up and not blame there students for literally every problem they have.
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Aishat
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As a 17 year old in the suburbs of the Midwest, studying abroad seemed such a faraway and untouchable concept. It seemed that only adolescents in movies and TV shows went on exchanges. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that the topic of exchange was broached. My friends were looking into different study abroad programs for the summer. When I became more interested in going abroad, I had missed the deadline of the program all of my friends were applying to, so I went in search for another program. That is when I discovered the Youth for Understanding program. At first glance, the price tag for exchange seemed particularly steep and was admittedly discouraging, but upon closer inspection, I found numerous scholarships that I could apply for to cut the cost substantially.

The application process was very straightforward and the questions were thought provoking. As I moved on to the interview portion, I was ecstatic to find that it was more lax and non-pressuring than I was used to. This was foreign to me because many interviews that I’ve had before made sure that I knew it was a competition. Of course, in this circumstance, I was essentially competing with other students interested in going abroad, as well as the students hoping to receive a scholarship. However, my interview with a YFU volunteer was more of a conversation that gauged my possible success abroad.

Through the period between my acceptance and getting on the plane, YFU guided me and my family through the preparation. I enjoyed the sectional orientation held by volunteers to help students going abroad in my area. I had the opportunity to meet several students whom were traveling to the same country as I and I learned some great skills to be successful abroad.

I also participated in the pre-departure orientation in Berkeley, California at the University of California-Berkeley. Unfortunately, for my group, we rushed to learn for a day and a half instead of a 3-day orientation. During the orientation, we met fantastic volunteers who were in our places a year or even ten years ago. We learned about some aspects of the culture we were going into. We also learned tips and phrases that would show respect, kindness, and gratitude to our host families during our first few days abroad.

I can honestly say that YFU fit me with the best family that I could have been placed with. Your host family is there to care for you and provide for all of your basic needs. Your placement can make or break your experience. As an only child, I worried about how I would be able to connect with my host siblings. I worried if I would like my host family and if they would like me. During my exchange, I learned that my worries were irrational. From day one, they made sure that I knew that I was welcome in their home. My host parent even reminded me of my natural parents, which kept me from feeling too homesick.

So, why YFU? Personally, I describe my exchange as my true transition from childhood to adulthood. Abroad, I was more independent in the way that I made most of my own decisions. However, YFU always made sure that I always had resources to assist me. Exchange really makes you aware of how big the world truly is. I’ve learned so much about a culture different from my own. These experiences that I have had, thanks to the YFU program, are sure to stay with me throughout my lifetime.

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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This trip truly changed my life. I got had experiences and met people that have truly helped shape me as a person. I have gained skills that I will take and use for the rest of my life. I can never show how grateful I am for the experiences YFU has given me. I got the opportunity to go to a school, join Kendo club, explore beautiful places, and meet tons of people. This experience truly widened my eyes to the beauty of different cultures.

What would you improve about this program?
Longer trips and more group exploration activities.
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Mira
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

YFU honestly gave me the chance to have the best summer of my life!
I had just finished my 3rd year of Japanese study, so I felt it was time to actually test my skills and go to Japan. YFU’s 6-week summer program with a host family was perfect. I was a little wary about going away for so long, but after my return, I wished I could’ve stayed for a whole year.
I felt completely safe the entire time, not just because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, but also because YFU prepared me well for my time abroad with orientations and information, as well as setting up support systems for me in Japan.
My host family was the best part of my experience by far. I am an only child, so having two older brothers was a brand new and wonderful experience. My mom made amazing food, my brothers and I got along so well, and my dad was always saying “本当の兄妹みたい!” (You really look like siblings!).
I lived in a tiny agricultural town in Yamanashi prefecture, not at all as glamorous as my hometown of Chicago! Despite that, I had a blast, and I never felt like I was jealous of people living in bigger cities or of those who were doing a lot of tourist-y sightseeing. I was in Japan to be truly immersed in the language and culture, and YFU gave me the perfect opportunity for that.
I also went to high school for 5 weeks out of 6, and this allowed me to make lifelong friends and learn the traditional Japanese arts of flower-arrangement (kado) and sword-fighting (kendo).
I wish I could live this summer of my life over and over again, and I’m so excited to go back!

What would you improve about this program?
I can't think of anything!
Kathleen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Studying abroad never crossed my mind until I heard and saw videos on Youtube about it. Originally I thought that studying abroad was only something you would see on television, but I was wrong. When I heard of YFU, I knew then that I could make my dream a reality. The application process is fairly simple and requires a application fee. During the process one thing I liked was that YFU was there and were really supportive of me. They made sure I was on time with due dates and such. And really they made sure I was ready for a journey of a life time. One of the biggest issues is about money and how much it was cost. Lucky for me and most of the students we were about to get scholarships. For me the scholarship that I had was the Japan American Friendship Scholarship that covers most of the tuition, leaving us to pay $3,000 of the $12,000.
Once I was abroad in Japan, we all go through this honeymoon phase and after that we notice that exchange isn't all rainbows and unicorns. For me, I went through this rough patch where I wasn't fully able to communicate with my classmates. First of all, I don't know a lot of Japanese and secondly my shyness got in the way. Leading me to another good point of YFU, they did a good job placing me in a school and host family that was so kind and supportive. There was a teacher at my school who really helped my through my predicament and helped me see what I had to do in order to better improve my situation. Also at home, my family was always there to make me laugh and after a rough day they would be there to make me laugh. My host family really made me feel like I was their daughter and sister! I felt like I belonged and they were my home. Once I was able to make friends and connections with my classmates I really felt like I was a part of the Japanese school system. This particular experience really helped me get out of my comfort zone and due to this I was able to be not so shy anymore. Still on the topic about placement, is that you don't learn of where you will be staying and attending school until about a month or so before. The wait is pretty long, it is to insure that you are placed into a home that is best suited to you. Also, I was placed into Yamanashi prefecture, and to most people they probably have never heard of it, but I think that's one of the beauties about YFU you are placed into a area that best suits your taste and your preferences, but its also good to be open minded about it too. For me I really didn't have a preference as to where I'll live while in Japan all I wanted was to experience as many things as possible and I believe being ope minded about the whole experience in general will lead to more opportunities to see the world in a new light.
Overall, I believe that YFU is a good program to consider when finding a study abroad program. You get to become more independent, you get to broaden your horizons, and get to see the world in a new light thus making one world of cultural understanding.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing that could be improved upon is transportation especially when going from Japan to America. I remember people had very very different schedules even if they live in the same city, which created a lot of confusion with us. Also, the first group that went before me had a lot more time for orientation about 3 days , while we had about 1 day for orientation. So I believe that if it were sorted equally that would work so much better instead of having to cram so much into so little time.
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Ronak
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Going on an intercultural exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you have to make sure you do it right. YFU is the best option. While I did have many exciting, educational, and emotional experiences abroad, my father had his doubts at first. After conducting thorough research, we concluded that YFU was the safest program around with their intricate layers of support for both the student and natural family. During my exchange, YFU ensured that I was safe, comfortable, and ready to learn. They mapped out each part of the exchange to avoid mishaps, accidents, and distrubances (even at the airport which was miraculous). Great experiences can be had anywhere, but safe and educational experiences are YFU's specialty in my opinion. I encourage any parents of prospective students to research YFU's support system, and I bet you will come to the same conclusion that my father and I did: YFU is the best option.

What would you improve about this program?
Frankly, I had a great exchange; I cannot recall any aspects that I would consider changing. It seems YFU has perfected the intercultural exchange for high school students.