Foreign Exchange Program

2023 IFYE Orientation Held in Washington, D.C.


The 2023 IFYE Orientation was held from June 14-19, 2023, in Washington D.C. for 22 inbound and outbound IFYE Representatives. 

Arrival dates were staggered so that the Outbound IFYEs could visit Capitol Hill. IFYEs had the opportunity to meet with their Congressional Members and while there discuss the IFYE Program and its value. Ohio Delegates Meghan O’Reilly and Kyle Newland met with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan. Delegates from North and South Dakota met with South Dakota Senator John Thune and discussed the upcoming Farm Bill and its potential impact on IFYE. Stephan Rolle and Michael Conger met with Georgia Representative Austin Scott’s Ag Legislative Advisor. Others enjoyed a tour of the Capitol and a visit to the nearby Botanical Gardens.


An Orientation Training Team consisting of Hannah Nordby (2018 ND to Taiwan and Thailand), Amaris Daniels (2019 FL to Taiwan and Thailand); Traci Ross Sherlock (2022 KS to Norway); and National Program Director Melissa Ruyle Haberstroh (1988 TX to Belgium and 1992 to Botswana). Joint sessions were held for both inbounds and outbounds and included a variety of topics designed to prepare the IFYE Representatives with techniques necessary to communicate effectively abroad; discuss sensitive subjects without offending others; and document their IFYE experience through photographs and journaling. Other workshops and sessions included:

  • Real Colors®, a dynamic workshop experience using a personality type test.
  • “The Mind Body Connection: Transforming your relationship with stress” with Caroline Homan.
  • “What is your why? Metacognition for Thriving” also with Caroline Homan.
  • Culture Shock
  • Communication Styles
  • Travel Safety Tips
  • Language Labs
  • An Alumni Panel Discussion featuring Jackson Tubbs (2022 IA to Germany); Sheri Swackhamer (1983 MD to Italy); Pat Hutsell (1972 NE to Kenya); Jan Wood (1972 OH to Australia); and Bob Jenkins (1964 VA to India). A luncheon immediately following the panel discussion allowed for the conversation to continue with the 2023 Delegates and the Alumni panelists.
IFYE 2023 Public Trans Challenge Metro Tickets

A team works together to negotiate the Metro kiosk in the public transportation challenge

A new introduction this year was a Public Transportation Challenge where groups of inbounds and outbounds worked together to navigate the trains and buses of the Metro system to arrive at Federal Triangle at a certain time. This challenge was designed to prepare the outbounds for navigating public transportation in their host countries with the assistance of those inbounds who are more experienced.

Federal Triangle was the starting point for a highlight activity for the IFYEs: a Cultural Gems Scavenger Hunt. New for this year, the hunt lasted two hours and had groups competing to answer trivia questions and complete photo challenges at different sites around Washington, DC. Groups were a mix of inbound and outbound IFYEs and caused them to work past language and cultural differences to complete each challenge. The winners of the competition: Eila Erdal (Sweden to VA), Tori Rasmussen (ND to Tanzania), Seoyeon Song (Korea to MO), and Elisabeth Dalke (SD to Austria) were awarded a Visa Gift Card and bragging rights. 

The evening was spent dining in various ethnic food restaurants (Ethiopian, Argentinian, and Cambodian for example) and followed by a Moonlight Monument Walk.

IFYE Orientation is different than any other exchange program. 

In a few short days, we prepare our IFYEs for the challenges of living with multiple host families in a culturally immersive environment through sessions and workshops. We use icebreakers, songs, and dance to open hearts to craft immediate and life-long friendships. More than that, we bring young people of varied backgrounds and histories; climates and locales; and levels of travel-skill together and create bonds. The type of bonds where a person who might not otherwise fit in is accepted into a group. Where language is no barrier to a common goal. Where we achieve “peace through understanding.”

This is IFYE. This is what we do best.