(11.09.14)Oh no! Las Vegas! by AnkeS.

Context of Author

Today I am a teacher in Germany and still volunteer for Youth for Understanding (YfU)




I was an exchange student to Las Vegas when I was 17. I had worked as a camp counsellor before, but went on to working for and with Youth for Understanding (YfU) very actively until I turned 30. YfU is an international, non-profit exchange organization. Today, I still volunteer. However, my life would never have turned out the same without the impressions in my first and second year abroad and then the following years in other countries...

Story in Full

It was the year 1985. I had just turned 17 and took off in a plane – my first flight ever! One year in Las Vegas! I had had to reassure my parents that I would not come home a gambler or a prostitute. The dictionary had said: ‘Las Vegas: Sin City’ and my parents had been in shock.

To make a long story short: I had 11 superb months in a special, but very normal city. I had the most wonderful and welcoming host-parents – the family I lived with for that time. I was based at a high school that was used to hosting international students and had an amazing volleyball team to work with. The place became my home and provided me with great friends.

After the year, I was full of the exchange student spirit. I wanted to give to others what had been provided for me: a warm and caring preparation, good mentoring during the year and periodical reflective workshops to help me along. I volunteered for YfU back home in Germany and helped prepare other students and mentor host-families. I enjoyed giving back, developing the workshops and working in a group of like-minded young people.

But more amazing was a development back in the USA. My former host-family had developed a taste for YfU and became an entity in the area organizing and structuring YfU locally.  I was invited back and for one year I again took part in the programme in Las Vegas. This time with more responsibilities, I was placing students, mentoring families, and organizing workshops and monthly activities. So many different methods and approaches. A great enrichment for me.

I went back every other year to help and share in the summer. Until my host-parents died just a couple of years ago. However, contacts to friends and fellow volunteers continue. The students, the families and the other volunteers are friends today. Friends all over the world. A real network of people on the same level – people that share the idea of a world-wide understanding.

I am a teacher today, after having spent two years abroad teaching German to Slovenes, I am now working at the administrative level of my quite international school. Every day I am challenged to work on an intercultural level and provide understanding and acceptance of others. Never would I have been able to tackle these challenges without all the experiences as an exchange student, as a mentor, organizer or trainer – never!

The year abroad, the preparation for it and the work as a volunteer afterwards on different levels of the process have definitely changed the whole course of my life.


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