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International Symposium in Mexico on Student Exchange

International Symposium in Mexico on Student Exchange


YFU Symposium in Mexico

The impact of a school year abroad on global understanding was discussed in workshops.

YFU hosted a major global symposium in Mexico City on March 22, 2019. The symposium focused on the challenges facing future generations - individuals and societies - in view of a changing world. A long-term student exchange, such as the YFU (Youth For Understanding) association has been offering for over 60 years in around 50 different countries, can help enormously in coping with these challenges.

Guest speakers

YFU encourages students, parents, host families, schools and communities to spend a school year in another country to experience personal growth, intercultural education and social responsibility.
Now 130 experts from all over the world were invited to a symposium in Mexico. Guest speakers included Ellen Sprenger of Spring Strategies, a consulting agency, Laurence Wohlers, US ambassador, and Mandeep Tiwana of Civicus, an international civil society organization. Other speakers included Ivonne López from the OECD and Jesús Alvarado from the sporting goods manufacturer Nike. In their talks they dealt with the topics of global understanding, democracy and citizenship, work and employment opportunities as well as equality and diversity.

A panel with YFU alumni illustrated the positive influence of youth exchange experiences: The German Rita Stegen was in the USA in 1988/89, the South African Jaymion Hendricks in Germany in 2004/05, the Mexican Santiago Ignacio Quiroz Villarrel in Belgium in 1995/96, the Japanese Jun Kumamoto in the USA in 1985/86 and the Mexican Matrio Trevino Villegas in Norway in 1995/96: Today they are all CEOs, diplomats, lawyers or professors in leading positions. During the international conference they shared their personal stories, funny moments and important questions ("Difficult conflicts", "Do my own laundry", "My identity?").

The participants of the symposium were invited to discuss the impact of student exchange programs in small groups. What do the results mean for the future work of YFU and what steps should be taken between 2019 and 2030? For example, exchange programs not only for young people but also for older generations are desirable. More exchanges with the Middle East and North Africa and more scholarships to facilitate access to the programs would be helpful as well.

Current exchange students
A highlight of the symposium was the appearance of a group of students of different nationalities who are currently exchange students in Mexico. They reported on their immediate experiences, above all on how they experience social media both as an obstacle and as support for immersing themselves in the foreign culture. The pupils were able to travel to the symposium due to sponsorship by DR-WALTER.

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