Mariele Münstermann, Alumnus from Germany, 1961, fondly recalls her year spent in America as a YFU exchange student. While visiting the States for her 50th class reunion last June, Mariele was kind enough to take a moment to tell YFU her story.
Growing up in post-war Germany, young Mariele was always interested in America. Born at the end of WWII, Mariele tells the story of being held by an American GI when she was just two days old. “The GI’s gave my mother food. Because of this, I was always interested in the USA.” Her first interests focused around the culture of the US, and after speaking with some neighbor boys who had been to America through YFU, Mariella applied and was accepted on program.
Placed with the Heenan family in Flint, MI, Mariele attended St. Michael’s High School where she met many friends and continued to keep in contact with them for the next 50 years. Mariele recalls, “the first two weeks on exchange were very hard and I had to work very hard.” But then, she found her independence and began to see things from a different angle. She quickly acclimated herself to the school, making new life-long friends in the process.
Upon her return to Germany, Mariele became a French teacher, eventually moving to France with her husband, but she always remained in touch with her classmates from St. Mike’s. Back in America for her reunion, it was if she never left with so many of her classmates, recalling with great fondness, their year with Mariele so long ago.
Mariele’s story exemplifies not only how exchange has a lasting impact on relationships but also the future career choices of our students. Any network is strengthened when connections are continually made and sustained, and in this way YFU’s impact on intercultural understanding progresses into its 7th decade. For Mariele, 52 years later, she is still connected; to her old community of Flint, to her many friends made during her year on program and to the legacy of YFU and our Founder, Rachel Andresen.