Cropped homepagebacg3

Meet the YFU’s 70th Anniversary Celebration Team

Global celebration is a novel project that has brought together former YFU exchange students, host parents, staff members and volunteers from more than 12 different YFU organisations across the globe to form our ACT. Each unique experience allows us to grasp the true YFU spirit that has been alive for 70 years, which is to explore and gain a deeper understanding of different cultures, open homes and hearts to people from other countries, and creating lifelong connections.

Cropped billdant

BILL DANT
Volunteer with YFU-USA since 1985; YFU staff member in Washington 1987-1994; YFU-USA Board member 2013-present: YFU International Board Member 2021-present.

My whole life and career have been marked by my exchange experience --- now many years ago -- when I spent a year in Strasbourg, France. I learned French, I learned about France and French culture, but most of all, I learned about myself. Since then, I finished my university studies and went to West Africa to be a middle school teacher for two years in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and that launched me on a lifelong continuation of experiences with the whole world--as a teacher first, then as an international programs manager and director, and now as an independent consultant specializing in international education and evaluation. I lived in Washington DC for many years (which included seven years working on the staff of YFU-USA), but in recent years I have moved to rural Virginia, about 100 km from Washington, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (a beautiful and peaceful place--come visit and I'll show you around!

Cropped img 0929

AGNES NERATH
YFU Hungary- I was an exchange student from Hungary to Belgium in 1992/1993. I am volunteering since Oct 2020

I was an exchange student from Hungary to Belgium in 1992/1993. I am volunteering since Oct 2020. YFU taught me that people are nice and generous across the globe, having the World My Home is great fun and exciting. And most importantly I realized thank you YFU, that You can make an impact, anywhere and anytime. So better invest in something good. Because of my special language skills, I got my 3 first jobs and thanks to my belief in people, loving to work with colleagues across the globe. My unique interest in why how and what others think and understanding my own need and having a special approach to issue resolution, gathering people around the same table and openly discuss problems, helped me to climb up the corporate ladder- now being a senior leader for quite some time. Obviously not everything happened from one day to another, but definitely, the YFU experience helped me to willing to learn and listen to feedback, not being afraid of moving out from my comfort zone and understanding it is OK to fail from time to time- was helping to be appreciated by the corporate world.

To continue for another 70 years to invest in the future generation in the right way to make the world a better place! Never give up!

Cropped img20200805143512

ALEXANDRA TICHY
YFU Australia (current; President), and YFU Austria (former; exchange student, volunteer, board member)


Like for many others, my journey with YFU started as an exchange student (to Virginia, USA, in 2009. Not just my exchange year, but the many great memories of YFU orientations and the YFU spirit I saw in all the YFU volunteers led me to become a volunteer myself. Along my YFU journey I teamed and led exchange orientations, trained volunteers both in Austria and in Europe and eventually ended up on the board of YFU Austria, and more recently of YFU Australia. Even though my role within YFU was always changing, the experiences and things I learned on this path have had a big influence on my life: from my love to be internationally active, to specific skills I learned as volunteer and on the board that have shaped my career choices. What remained the same was and is my passion for the values that YFU stands for. This is the reason why I joined the anniversary team, to share these values on a global scale at a time when the world needs a bit more understanding.

I wish the YFU community that we can reconnect this year with all the great memories and relationships we have made through YFU, and that we as an organization can use these difficult times to come out stronger and show that our values are and remain important on a path for a more understanding world.

Cropped caro 2021

CAROLINA SUÁREZ GARCÉS
I'm a representative of YFU in Mendoza, Argentina and belong to the volunteer's group of YFU Argentina.

I was an exchange student in Germany in 1989/90. This was possible thanks to the Eric Simon Scholarship that YFU offers every year. I consider that experience one of the most important ones in my life. After my year abroad I started collaborating with YFU as a volunteer, later on, I was host family and representative of YFU in my region. I feel blessed of having been able to live an exchange program and I keep contributing to this cause for giving other people this possibility. When I found out about the 70th Anniversary of the creation of YFU I wanted to help and make this milestone a global celebration for the whole world to know about our organization.

I hope that more people join YFU in our efforts to bring understanding and love to our world, to connect hearts and open minds for a brighter world!

Cropped adeleactcoreteam

YUMENG DU
YFU China
I was an exchange student in the U.S. from 2015 to 2016, where I lived in Big Rapids, Michigan for a whole school year. That exchange experience changed my perspective about the world and ultimately led me to persuade a higher education in the United States. I credited my exchange for pushing me to jump out of my comfort zone, immerse myself in a completely foreign country, and teach me to stay open and appreciative of things. I have met the sweetest host families, and friends from across the world whom I am still in contact with to this day. It has been an unprecedented and challenging year for many of us, and I want to do my part to give back to this community that has given me so many unforgettable memories.

Happy Birthday, YFU, can’t wait to celebrate your 80th birthday!

Cropped 20210213 174730

LENA GRONBACH
YFU South Africa – National Director

I joined the YFU community as an exchange student to Chile in 2006/07. After an unforgettable year in Patagonia I became a volunteer for YFU Germany and later joined YFU South Africa as a marketing intern in 2011. I immediately fell in love with the country and the wonderful people in YFU South Africa and today, 10 years later, I am the National Director of our organization. Leading YFU South Africa through a global pandemic has certainly been challenging. But at the same time, the mutual support and the ‘fighting spirit’ within the global YFU community has been incredibly motivating and rewarding. For me, YFU has never been just a job – it’s given me a second (and even third) family, lifelong friends, a new home and a different perspective on life. My main motivation to join the Anniversary team was to make sure the African continent is represented in the celebrations, and to play a small part in this amazing global project which will showcase YFU in all its diversity.

My birthday wish for the YFU community is that it continues to prosper, to inspire, and to build bridges between countries, cultures and individuals. YFU was born out of a global crisis and I am convinced that we will not only survive the current one but that it will make us stronger and bring our community closer together. Here’s to the next 70 years!

Cropped vanessa.jpg

VANESSA BERRY
YFU USA

My name is Vanessa and I am from San Diego, CA (USA). I am an alumna of YFU (1995-1996 school year). I was an exchange student during high school for one year with YFU in Germany, on the CBYX scholarship. I was also an exchange student to Mexico for one semester during my junior year of college through my university. I absolutely LOVED being an exchange student and would currently be doing that as my full-time career, if there were such a profession. Being an exchange student sparked my interest in studying foreign languages in college, and I now have a B.A. in Foreign Languages & Linguistics from California State University Fullerton (German, Spanish, & Linguistics). It also pushed me towards my very first job, which was as a tour guide at Disneyland in the Guest Relations department. I gave tours in all 3 languages, I was a VIP Hostess for celebrities, as well as a Guest Relations trainer & supervisor there for 12 years. I have also been an event planner (which I still do when we are not in a pandemic), a long-term substitute teacher for high school foreign language, as well as a private, in-home tutor for students ages 13-60, which is what I am currently doing. I also volunteer for YFU: I teach many of the southern California orientations, I have been an area rep, a host sister, and an emergency host “mom”. YFU has inspired the entire path that my life has taken and, for that, I am forever grateful.

Happy 70th Birthday, YFU! It is an honor to be on the global Anniversary Celebration Team and I am so happy to be a volunteer and giving back to an organization that has given so much to me. I look forward to many more years of YFU uniting hearts and opening minds across the world!

Cropped image from ios

ANNI KEKÄLÄINEN
YFU Finland

I was an exchange student in Tokyo, Japan in 2014-2015. The exchange year shaped me as a person and changed my life, which is why I wanted to give back and participate in the YFU community as a volunteer. Since I came back I've gotten to be a part of many orientation camps and meet many students and volunteers in Finland but little less so outside Finland, which is why I wanted to join the 70ACT - to get to work together towards a celebration for my dear YFU with other likeminded people from all over the world.

I want to wish the happiest of birthdays to YFU, a community that gave me the opportunity to live my best life in Tokyo for a year and that has kept on giving me amazing experiences and possibilities to meet new people who share my experiences. Without this community there would not be who I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful!

Cropped melisa

MELISA BALCI
YFU Turkey

My YFU journey has started in 2013, when I first found out about the international exchange programs it offers and sent my application. Then I got my place to be an exchange student in the USA in 2014-2015. :) It was my dream to be an exchange student since I was in middle school. But unfortunately, unlike YFU, not many programs in Turkey are cultural exchanged focused, so most of the programs I found before were financially unaffordable for me. Being a cultural exchange program and mostly working with volunteers, YFU gave me a chance to make that dream come true. :) I wanted to be one of those volunteers to help people like me to see the opportunities they might not have realized they had. :)

I wish YFU and the whole community a wonderful anniversary and I hope this celebration finds its place as one of the earliest celebrations.