Published on 11/17/97

4-H Offers World Through International Youth Exchange

"How do I sum up six incredible months of my life?" asked Susan Kuzniak on returning home
from serving as an International 4-H Youth Exchange Representative to Belgium. Kuzniak is a
graduate student at the University of Georgia.

Putting her experiences into words was tough, Kuzniak said. After all, she now intimately knows
another country and its culture. And she owes it all, she said, to 4-H.

Kuzniak said it's a trip she will always remember. "I became fluent in French, made friends in
Belgium and with the other U.S. students on the trip with me, saw a lot of Europe and tried new
things I otherwise would not have tried," she said. "Anyone with an open mind can benefit from this

More than 300 Georgia youths have taken advantage of the two international exchange
opportunities the IFYE program has offered since it began 75 years ago. With several programs to
choose from, 4-H makes traveling an incredible experience.

The IFYE Representative program is open to all 19- to 30-year- old 4-H alumni. During their
three- or six-month stay, representatives live with several host families for three to six weeks at a

Representatives can take part in day-to-day family life. They also may pursue special interests
through self-study and receive academic credit through their university. They may travel to countries
in all areas of the world, including Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Australia, Asia and

The IFYE Ambassador Program is  open  to  any  15-  to  19-year-old 4-H'er. It offers many ways
for young people to explore another area of the world, live with host families in other countries, learn another language and culture, experience youth programs and enjoy the sights and sounds of other

All IFYE ambassadors stay with host families. Some take an added educational tour. The Ambassador programs begin in June and last five to six weeks. Ambassadors may explore
Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The 1998 fee for the Ambassador program is $2,650 to $3,250. The cost ranges from $3,775 to
$4,775 for the Representative program. Prices vary depending on the area of the world and type of
program selected.

The fee includes the international airline ticket, travel in the host country, food, lodging,
supplemental insurance, orientation and evaluation programs. Financial support and fundraising help
may be available through county and state 4-H offices.

Greg Price, an Extension Service 4-H specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and
Environmental Sciences, coordinates the IFYE program. He encourages students to take advantage
of the life-changing experience.

"We always tell our 4-H exchangees they won't come back the same person," he said. "And they
don't. They find out who they really are, how they handle challenging situations and how they
absorb another culture. They always learn a tremendous amount about their host country. But they
really learn the most about themselves."

The student is not the only one who benefits from the program. "Everybody learns from an
exchange program," Price said. "The families back home and host families abroad see the world
through new eyes.

"And when the exchangees return," he said, "their communities discover they have a grassroots
ambassador on hand to speak for another culture."

Kuzniak is still using the knowledge she gained in Belgium every day.

"I am getting my Master's degree in teaching English as a second language," she said. "My
experience in Belgium helps me relate to my students because I was forced to communicate in my
second language (French) while I was on my trip."

Heather Hardy is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.