I took a Deutsche Bahn train from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) to Köln (Cologne) Hbf on the 23 of August, 2014 to move to my permanent host family in Schleiden. The journey was a standard European train ride, and everything went well. I did, however, miss the soothing clickity-clack of the Polish intercity trains.
But once again, on the train I was reminded of how small and connected our world is today.
While the ticket inspector walked down the isle of Wagen 8 checking for valid train tickets, I readied my ticket by pulling it out of the envelope in my backpack. Together in the envelope were some information papers from YFU. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of trying to pull a single, select piece of paper from an envelope containing many sheets….every unnecessary piece of paper comes out as well.
After I rested my YFU papers on the seat tray table, the woman sitting next to turned and asked, “Are you a YFU exchange student?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
I’d like to say that I continued with, “Ich heiße Andrew. Ich komme aus Michigan”, but instead I defaulted to English.
It turns out that this woman was an exchange student herself in the late 1980’s, from Germany to Connecticut. She met her then future husband at her American high school, and a few years they married and lived in the United States for a little over a decade.
My friendly seat mate also volunteered as a YFU teacher for a number of years at orientations similar to the one I had just finished.
At the YFU National PDO I often heard the term YFU Family thrown around, and either never gave it much thought or considered it to be a sappy and overblown description of the YFU alumni community. But as I spend more time as an exchange student, I’m beginning to experience how many people have been affiliated with or affected by YFU programs during their lifetime.
Either YFU is big, or the world is small. Maybe both.