My YFU Family is the best because…

Katharina was an exchange student from Germany with the Becigneul family in Southfield, Michigan. She says her host family did so much for her that “they made one amazing year possible.” Apart from being thankful for her host mom Mimi’s effort to get her the best American high school experience, she enjoyed spending time with them and felt like she became part of the Becigneul family at the end of the year.

My host sister, Madison, at the time twelve years old, was a big help for me in the beginning, too. Every time we went out to eat, I was too insecure to order my food myself, so she was the one who would order it for me without complaining :). She also showed me around the neighborhood and took me to my very first garage sale.

It was not all happy all the time though. Two teenage girls in one house, of course there was going to be some drama. Mimi put up with all our childish fights though, and at the end of the year, when Madison and I worked out our differences, we had a blast that last summer, taking a sewing class together or riding our bikes to the two miles away Dairy Queen to get some ice cream. But also during the year, Madison and I got through some adventures together, for example taking the bus, which really is quite an adventure in the Metro Detroit area. We stood there waiting for an hour while it was snowing very hard (we had a snow day that day).  We survived a creepy staring guy, got off one station too soon and walked the rest of the way. Against all odds, it was a really fun experience that we shared.

But also my extended YFU family was amazing! Madison’s aunt and Mimi’s Daughter, Michelle, her husband Mark and their five kids, Connor, Cassidy, Caitlyn, Dillon and Riley, ages 12-7 at the time, welcomed me with open arms. I got to spend a lot of time with them, and the kids were always just as excited to hang out with me as I was to hang out with them. Oftentimes, they assisted me in my cooking and baking adventures when I tried to make some German specialties (which sometimes didn’t work out that well :)). Michelle took her kids, Madison and me to do a lot of fun things over the year, for example seeing downtown Detroit or going on a trip to Chicago over a weekend. Mark was somebody who was always able to broaden my horizons when talking about various different topics. Additionally, he probably makes the best grilled chicken I have ever had in my life 🙂 I was always welcome at Michelle and Mark’s house and I had a blast every time I went there.

At family reunions, everybody was so nice and open towards me. I am not the most outgoing person when it comes to people I don’t know that well, but everybody was so interested in me and where I come from, I never even once felt uncomfortable, and by the end of the year, I felt like I really became a part of the family.

My host family also made it possible for me to travel around the US and see some more than Michigan. For Thanksgiving (a holiday that doesn’t exist in Germany like that), we went to Indianapolis to visit some friends of Mimi’s. I could not have asked for a better way to experience Thanksgiving, with amazingly nice people and a really full tummy. For Christmas Break, we went to visit Mimi’s other daughter and her family in North Carolina, so I got the chance to get to know another bunch of amazing people, visit one of the southern states and see the campus of Duke University.  In the summer, we also went to visit some family in Canada, where I got to see Toronto and Niagara Falls.

My YFU family and I went through all the ups and downs of an exchange year together. We enjoyed the fun times and worked through the hard ones. With all that and everything they have done for me, I would not hesitate a second to tell everybody that my YFU family is the best and how grateful I am for one amazing year with them 🙂

Katharina from Germany

                                                             Exchange student in school year 2011-2012

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About Youth For Understanding USA

Youth For Understanding (YFU) advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities. The global YFU network, consisting of partners in more than 60 different countries, is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to gain the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected and competitive global society. YFU has remained a trusted leader of intercultural exchange programs for more than 60 years because of its commitment to safety, reputation for quality, and exceptional support services. Backed by a global team of volunteers, YFU provides cultural education and guidance to all participants. Selected to administer more government and corporate scholarships than any other high school exchange program, YFU is the only organization awarded full-listing for J-1 inbound, outbound and short term exchange by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Through creating global learning opportunities, YFU has promoted international understanding and world peace to more than 250,000 students and their host families. Thousands of parents across the globe trust YFU with their teenagers every year, and thousands of students every year choose YFU to help them discover their inner selves.
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