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International Youth Exchange Programs: Some Unexpected Roots

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International youth exchange programs have been around for as long as most of us can remember, arranging for teenagers to spend time in a foreign country living with volunteer “host families.”  Over 50 countries are engaged in this sort of exchange, through dozens of organizations.

In this Voices from the Past, we’ll examine the unusual histories of two such programs:  AFS (formerly American Field Service) and Youth for Understanding (YFU).  AFS evolved from its origins as a volunteer ambulance corps during World War I. YFU began as an effort to hear the wounds of World War II by bringing teenagers from war-torn Germany to the United States to live with a family and attend high school for a year. Read how these organizations grew to expand their missions and international reach.