Youth for Understanding (YFU) is an intercultural exchange program that promotes the tagline Make the world your home. YFU's history began in 1951 in an "effort to heal the wounds of World War II" and today the organization hosts more than 4,000 exchange students annually to approximately 60 countries worldwide.
Cody, featured here, here, and here, is currently one of YFU's exchange students living abroad and, for the next few months, I will profile his adventures and those of his host family here on my blog. Here's my first interview with Cody:
Tell us why becoming a foreign exchange student appealed to you.
Cody: That's actually a tough question. There were so many reasons. It's hard to pick just one, so I'll give you a few.
The first thing I thought about was learning a new language. One of the most important skills you can have nowadays is being able to communicate well with other people and knowing many different languages can definitely help with that.
Another thing that appealed to me was the idea of being immersed in an entirely new culture. I've been around America all of my life and it's all I have ever known so I thought it would be great to learn how people in other countries live.
I also thought I could benefit from meeting new people and making new friends.
Leslie: Thank you, Cody. It's going to be an awesome year.
Becoming a Foreign Exchange Student
It was a lengthy process becoming a YFU student. There was an online application with an essay to submit. A packet to mail with personal photos, recommendations, and several years of notarized and sealed school records. There was an interview process, passport and visa requirements, shot and health documents, and, in between that, a lot of explaining to do about why the high school experience was preferable to the university semester abroad experience.
Cody was accepted into the program and attended two team-building events, one here in Washington, DC, and the other in Chicago, Illinois. Everything was set, or so we thought, but the departure date came and went. There was no host family for Cody.
Panic set in. How can Cody spend a year abroad with no host family?
But everything worked out and just kept getting better and better. The details were soon announced. Eric, Cody, and I met Magnus, Teresia, Lovisa, and Emilia via Facebook. Cody's host family is warm, friendly, and welcoming. It's so much better leaving home when you know who's there to greet you.
And then a flurry of rapid activity. Going away parties with grandparents, cousins, and aunts. Last-minute shopping, list making, and luggage labeling.
August 26, 2014. Cody's travel date. Cody flies from Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia at age 16 to Frankfurt, Germany, alone. And then Frankfurt to Stockholm, and Stockholm to Örnsköldsvik by train.
Yes, Cody's in Sweden.
For his junior year of high school.
Tune in often for more news about Cody's adventures as a YFU foreign exchange student in the far north of Sweden.