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Student Spotlight: Abroad with IFYE

by Emma Likens

Gaining experience through internships and training is a core part of the AFA Leader Development Model. For some past AFA students, experience also includes international travel.

Alyssa Dye, alumna of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Kelley Dickman, alumna of The Ohio State University, are part of a group of seven young adults living and traveling abroad this year through the IFYE U.S. organization.

IFYE was founded in 1948 on the premise of creating peace through understanding. Today IFYE is a rural-based, cultural immersion exchange program for young adults. The goal of the program is for participants to experience the world from different perspectives, and by doing so appreciate cultural diversity and gain a deeper understanding of the world and its peoples.

The full-immersion program enables participants from more than 20 countries around the globe to live with host families, primarily in rural areas and gain a new appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures while experiencing the meaning of global citizenship.

For Dickman, the program was a great opportunity post-graduation prior to starting her career.

“I’ve always loved travel but hadn’t traveled outside of the U.S. except on cruises. I love learning about new cultures, everything from trying new foods to being involved in different customs,” Dickman said. “I believe this experience is helping me discover what I’m really passionate about and the goals I want to work toward.”

Dye and Dickman are each traveling to two countries for three months each, from June to December. Dye is living in Estonia and India, while Dickman is living in Finland and Costa Rica. During their travels, they stay with host families and function as a member of the family.

Dickman said, “The IFYE program is amazing because you have the opportunity to live as family member instead of just being a tourist in a new country. I think you really get to experience the culture and real family life this way. Right away you are totally immersed, beginning with the language and food of their culture.”

Dye’s Estonian host families are all very entrepreneurial, ranging from strawberry farmers to furniture craftsmen to sausage makers.

“I consider them a part of my family now. Although I only stay with my host families for 14 days, these are meaningful relationships with people from all over Estonia that I’ll have with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

This year Estonia hosted the European IFYE Conference for 160 past (dating back to 1956) and present IFYE participants from Europe and the U.S. Dye was able to attend the conference, which has been the highlight of her trip so far. 

“It was so impactful to connect with people who’ve been in the IFYE program from all over the globe,” Dye said. “I’m looking forward to attending future IFYE conferences as an alumni and being actively involved in the IFYE USA Association.”

Both Dye and Dickman are both interested in pursing careers with an international scope when they return home to the U.S. 

For Dye, who before traveling to Estonia wanted to focus her work on Africa, IFYE has changed her perspective on what international work could look like. 

“Defining international agriculture as Africa is a very narrow focus – I’ve been able to expand my view from my study abroad experience. It’s really important for me to step outside of the Western lens of seeing things and take these agricultural and cultural experiences as they are,” Dye said.

If you’re interested in applying for IFYE, you can learn more here. If you’re attending AFA Leaders Conference this fall, be sure to stop by the IFYE booth at the Opportunity Fair. You can follow along with Dye’s travels here and Dickman’s travels here.  

Kelley Dickman spends a morning with some young 4H club leaders making pancakes over the fire and talking about the differences in the 4H program between Finland and the U.S.

Alyssa Dye and Maria Winkler (Austria) sort strawberries from the Rüütlis' strawberry fields to sell at the end of the driveway during summer holiday.

Dickman learns about Finnish beef production while visiting a family friend's farm. 

Dye and the other inbound IFYEs to Estonia take photo with country coordinator during opening ceremonies of the European IFYE Conference held in Estonia. L-R: Michèle Grindat (Switzerland), Reelika Rüütli (Estonia), Alyssa Dye, and Kristiina Liukonen (Finland)