Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions we have received. Please read these first and if they cannot answer your questions, please feel free to contact us during our office hours for more information.
Why is it worth going on exchange?

Exchange program gives a student a perfect chance to discover a new country and understand its culture. This allows winning many new perspectives, and erases national and cultural walls. Time spent abroad, in another culture, helps to understand each other and solve arising problems. This time allows to become as a part of a different daily life. YFU programs are based on that - it is only possible to get to know and understand another country when you live and feel like at home there.    

Who are Exchange Students?

The exchange student is between 15 and 18 years old and comes from one of 50 countries around the world. Exchange students have English language proficiency and have received good grades from their schools back home. Many students are awarded scholarships sponsored by governments, foundations and private corporations. Every student participates in a careful selection process and receives orientation and support, the exchange student will undergo a thorough preparation before traveling to the oversea country. Students can count on the ongoing support of their local volunteer representative. Exchange students are members of the family and share responsibility for the daily chores of typical teenagers. Student will bring his or her own spending money and will be covered by comprehensive health insurance arranged by the exchange organization. First and foremost, an international exchange is an educational experience. The school life of the exchange student is nearly as important as family life. Students attend high school and, whenever possible, study national government, history, and social studies as part of their academic course work.

Can I choose the city I will live in?

No. We at YFU believe that this a cultural, family-oriented experience and we prioritize family profile over location. We feel it is more important to have a compatible family rather than a family in a specific location. That great family waiting for you might not be in the town you would like to visit!

Am I left alone with no support in the host country?

No, you definitely are not left alone. YFU organizations not only place you in a host family, but also assign one or two area representatives (personal advisors), who will help you in your daily life and problem solving. At the same time your national YFU organization will be corresponding with you once in a while and will answer all questions that may arise.

When will I find out who my host family is?

You will receive the name, address, and brief description of your host family, as soon as your host country informs us. This may happen several months, or in a few cases, a few weeks or days before departure. It is important to keep in mind that as hard as we work on placements, sometimes it takes a little longer to find the host family that is right for you.

Who can host?

All kinds of families can host YFU students: couples with teenage children, young children, grown or no children at all, or single parents with at least one child living at home. The family opens their home and hearts to student and provide room, board, love, guidance, and the experience of what everyday life is like in your home country. It is easy and fun!

How are hosting families and YFU students matched up?

The first step is for family to complete an application and be interviewed by a YFU volunteer. Two references (not relatives) are required and YFU will ask the approval to contact both referees. Then, YFU volunteer will help the family chooses student, taking into consideration a number of factors to help make the best possible match. Variables include the family's values, the kind of activities involved in (sports, arts, intellectual pursuits, etc) religious preferences, whether the family would prefer a student who is quiet or outgoing, what area of the world the family would prefer student to be from, and so forth. Hosting does require a period of adjustment for all family members and for student in the beginning. Common interests and values make that adjustment easier.

What is expected of a host family?

YFU families come from all nationalities, occupations and religious backgrounds and live in cities, towns and rural areas. What makes each exchange experience unique is that no family is like any other. When the family volunteers to host an exchange student, they agree to: Welcome new son or daughter as a member of the family. Help student adapt to the family and to their life and culture. Provide a safe and loving home environment including a bed, a place to study and three meals a day. Attend YFU orientation events, read the preparation materials, and maintain regular contact with YFU volunteer. Understand YFU policies and encourage student to adhere to those policies. Familiarise student with community and its resources.

Can I change host families if needed?

All the arising problems have to be talked over with the host family. If both sides try to talk about their problems openly, it is very often seen that difficulties have only arose because of cultural differences, and change of families is not necessary. The area representative or the advisor can help in problem solving as well. However, sometimes relationship between the family and the student is going in a totally unexpected way, and problems cannot be solved so easily. If so, it is possible and sometimes even advisable to change host families.

How much pocket money should I have for a month?

The amount of pocket money depends on the student, his natural family, his host family and the level of living in the host country. However, 125 - 150 USD should be enough. If the student, for example, is willing to take a lot of pictures or to attend many parties, he will need more than that. This is the question to be discussed with the host family (they should know how much is enough in their own country). Sometimes it is possible to add some pocket money with small jobs in the neighborhood - such as babysitting, housekeeping or maintenance.

What can I expect from the exchange program?

By no means you should expect the time abroad to solve all your problems in the natural country, family or school. You should not treat this program as a long vacation living in the best family in the best place of the world. If you are ready for new challenges, new experiences and friends, this time could be the best for you. Your time abroad will teach you appreciation of new values, will help you become more mature and independent, will allow to experience the inexperienced. This is a perfect chance for any youngster!

Why is the age of would-be exchange students limited?

The age is limited for a couple of reasons. First of all, a student must be a High School student. Moreover, 15-18 year-olds are young and flexible enough to adapt to different surroundings. And finally, they already are mature enough to get the best from their exchange, and use their knowledge further in life.

Will my wishes and requests be taken into consideration?

Unfortunately, not all of your wishes and requests can be met. We cannot promise that you would be placed in a perfect family or community. On the other hand, hosting YFU organization is doing its best for incoming students. It is doing everything to help them to bring the best experiences back home. All of us, YFU partners, are assuring that best surroundings will be chosen and all the best is done for every student.

Do I have to know the language of my host country?

Many YFU organizations do not require their inbound students to have knowledge of the language. However, some countries, such as Germany or other German (or English) speaking countries need you to have sufficient knowledge of their language. Foreign language courses or intensive foreign language courses are being offered in many countries. One way or another, YFU exchange students adapt quickly and get to know the language naturally in no time while being surrounded by it at all times.

How are the host families selected?

All volunteer host families are carefully screened and matched to your profile as described on the application documents you submit to YFU hosting country. Volunteers in the hosting country will visit their home and make sure that the conditions in which you will be living are appropriate. If they are accepted as host family, they will attend an orientation before you arrive.

Why is a family motivated to welcome a foreign student into its home?

There isn't and cannot be the only answer to this question. Financial motives are useless in this case, as host families do not get any financial support neither from YFU nor anybody else. The family knows that YFU is not Au Pair, and they do not get a free "worker" accepting the student. On the other hand, a student becomes a part of the family - so he or she is required to help with household chores - as any other child in the family. So, why are families willing to open their doors for foreigners? They might be willing to learn, to gain experience, or to simply share their love with one more person...

Why be a host Family?

There are many reasons why hosting is a wonderful experience for the whole family. You'll learn about another culture and language without leaving home. You'll start a life-long relationship with your new "son" or "daughter", and when your student returns home, you'll have a whole other family in another country. Members of your family will feel closer through sharing your daily lives with a YFU student. If you have children, they'll gain a broader perspective on the world, learning more about geography, communication and international cultures. If your children are young they'll probably love having a big brother or sister from another country. Most of all, you will all have a lot of fun!

What if I don't get along with my host family?

Our matching system takes into account several variables to make sure placements run smoothly. However, sometimes families and student just don't "click". We have experienced volunteers who will be able to provide counseling and help to work out these differences. If the problem cannot be solved, you will be placed in a new host family.

Will there be somebody at the airport?

Absolutely. Both at your departing and arrival airport you will have a YFU volunteer ready to assist you. Even if your flight requires overnight accommodation, one of our Travel Support volunteers will be there to help you.

How do I get ready for this exchange program?

Of course, it is always great for the student to learn about the host country and its culture before departure. You, as an exchange student, should be ready for the challenges waiting for you. This is one of the reasons why your national YFU organization plans a pre-departure seminar for all outbound students. It is more than advisable to participate in this seminar, because former YFU students, YFU volunteers, share their experiences with you, and you are able to get answers to all of your questions. Many YFU organizations offer students an arrival orientation, where natives there inform you about life in the country.