The United States

The United States

"The United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, at least according to their National Anthem. It’s one of the largest countries in the world, both by land area and population. Founded in 1776, with over 300 million inhabitants, it is considered to have the world’s largest economy. It spans over 50 individual states, with different style and culture. Will you be discovering the Midwest, the Deep South or maybe one of their large cities, such as New York City or Chicago?"

Did you know...

That 100 acres of pizza are served every day in the USA?

That the first man to walk on the moon in 1969 was American Neil Armstrong? 

That there is an official rock, paper, scissors league in the US, of which the first national championship was held in Las Vegas in 2006?

That the first Friday in June is National Donut Day?

That the average American will eat 1500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before they turn 18?

Host families

Your host family will offer you a direct connection to the U.S. culture and will be an important part of your experience as an exchange student. This family will be supporting you during your exchange experience. Since the U.S. is a very diverse country, you should also expect a lot of diversity regarding host families. Every host family will be different and there is no such thing as a traditional American family. You can be hosted by a family with children, a single mom or dad, a couple of the same sex or an older couple. These host families consist of individuals who can be of various races, cultures and can have different beliefs than you have. Honesty and an open mind will definitely help you and will be much appreciated by your host family. 


Adjusting is quite important since every family member will have their own ideas about food and meals, rules and family activities. However, they will be more than happy to teach you their U.S. culture and help you in getting adjusted to their family culture. They will offer you a supporting environment and are glad to help if you have any problems or questions regarding their culture.

School

In the U.S., children can either choose private or public education. While public schools are mandatory from kindergarten through 12th grade and have overall national standards, private schools have the possibility to determine their own curriculum. However, most children in the U.S. attend public schools, which often provide transportation by school bus. 


Depending on the state, children are officially required to start their education between five and eight and end it somewhere between sixteen and eighteen years old. Most schools are divided into three levels; elementary school, middle school and high school. Most people attend high school between the ages of 15 to 18. Various subjects in high school are mandatory, such as English, Social Sciences, Science, and Mathematics. Some years of art education, a foreign language and health curriculum (in which lessons about anatomy, first aid, nutrition, sexuality, birth control and drug awareness are offered) are also required. An American school year can vary a lot, but often students go back to school after the summer break at the end of August and finish that year in late May or early June. Before graduating, people normally have attended 12 years of primary and secondary school. After that, they can choose to study further in higher education (community colleges and universities). 

"One day, when my host dad and I were helping each other with grocery bags at a supermarket, one clerk came up to us and said, "You and your daughter make a perfect family". My host dad responded, "Yes, I am so glad to have such a beautiful daughter". At that moment, I realized that I was no longer an "exchange student" in the family but was a "daughter" and a "sister" in the family. I am so grateful that I have someone who I call my second family in my life. They have been an indispensable part of my life."

Free time

American people have many different hobbies. Some of these may include going to the movies, fishing, bowling and biking. For a long time, fishing has been an extremely popular hobby. It can be very relaxing to get outdoors. Bowling is a fun sport, too! Since it is not that difficult, everyone can go out and give it a try. It’s also a very social sport which gives you the opportunity to play and chat with your friends at the same time, or maybe you’ll even create new friendships! A lot of students also love being involved in social events via extra-curricular activities at school.


sports

Another very popular thing to do in America is playing sports. A lot of sports are played, such as basketball, soccer, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling and even motor sports. The most popular sport is by far American football, a sport played by two teams of eleven players on a field that has goalposts at each end. There are different ways to score, such as a touchdown and a field goal. American people don’t just watch these games at home, thousands of people go to stadiums to see games live. An absolute must-do is to get together with friends, dress up as fans, get yourself a hotdog and a beer and go support for your favorite football team! 

extra-curricular acitivities

It’s also very popular and common in the U.S. to participate in extra-curricular activities at school. Some examples of these are playing on the school's sports teams, singing in a choir, playing an instrument in a band or an orchestra, school journalism, art or several competitions, all organized by your school. Students in the U.S. also have the possibility to help create the year book, an annually published book to commemorate the past school year. Various topics such as sports, clubs, student life and major school events are covered in these books. Another great way of spending your free time is by joining topic-specific clubs such as the math or chess club. 

Discover the United States

The YFU experience offers you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and prepares you to be a global citizen.

Is there any better country to achieve this goal than one of the biggest countries in the world? Adventures are waiting for you, while still having the loving support of your host family when needed. Head off to one of the 50 states and explore typical American food, open and friendly people and an eclectic culture that combines busy city life with a touch of quite nature. During your stay in the U.S. you can travel now and then, but it is also very fun to go out with your host family and to get involved in some community events. Examples include attending seasonal and music festivals, participating in church organizations or visiting your local farmer’s markets. It’s a good idea to search online for weekly events that your local community organizes. In the following list you can discover some of the most important events in the U.S. 

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN THE WEST COAST

1. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) 
2. Yosemite National Park (California) 
3. Discover he Grand Canyon at sunset or even spend the night their and Monument Valley (Arizona) 
4. Universal Studios in Hollywood 
5. Alcatraz (San Francisco) 
6. Attend a baseball game 
7. Las Vegas 
8. Arches National Park (Utah) 
9. Eat and enjoy a late-night Awful Awful Burger at The Nugget in Nevada 
10. Hike the Ape Caves in Washington

Top 10 things to do around the East coast

1. Niagara Falls (at the border of the U.S. and Canada) 

2. Statue of Liberty (New York City) 

3. Lincoln Memorial and the White House (Washington, D.C.)  

4. Acadia National Park (New England)  

5. Shenandoah Caverns (Virginia)

6. Savannah Historic District (Georgia)  

7. Florida Everglades  

8. Have breakfast like a local in New York City  

9. Add your pumpkin to the wall at the Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire  

10. Go see a hockey game

Food Facts

Daily Meals

What people eat for breakfast can say a lot about the general food culture in a country. The typical traditional American breakfast is known to be very heavy: toast with fried eggs, bacon and sometimes even potatoes. Lighter dishes such as cereals, fruit with yoghurt, bread and pancakes or waffles are also some of the possibilities. Most breakfasts in the U.S. include tea, coffee, juice or milk as beverages. However, lots of Americans just skip their entire breakfast or eat these type of dishes for lunch, dinner or as a late night snack. Depending on the situation, lunch varies in the USA. When people are working, they often bring leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. However, it’s also common to go out for lunch, preferably for fast food. When people bring their own lunch, there are a few popular dishes: sandwiches, soup, salad, quesadilla and noodles. A classic lunch consists of a sandwich, with variations in cheese, meat and vegetables. Common side dishes are fruit and potato chips.

Recipe: hamburgers with oven chips

Ingredients

1 pound new potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick 

2 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and pepper

1 pound ground beef 

4 hamburger buns 

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 pickle, sliced 

1 small head butter lettuce 

1 beefsteak tomato, sliced

preperation

1. Heat oven to 400° F.

2. In a bowl, toss the potatoes and oil. Spread on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. 

3. Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan to medium. 

4. Shape the beef into four 1-inch-thick patties. Season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium. 

5. Transfer the patties to buns and top with the mayonnaise, pickle, lettuce, and tomato. Serve with the chips.


(source: realsimple.com/food-recipes)

Food Habits

A lot of Americans don’t really take that much time for their meals and consume more packaged food than fresh food. It is pretty normal in the USA to open a can for dinner when in a rush. Many Americans also eat take-out on their way to or from work. American dinners are multicultural and borrow ideas from several cultures. Lasagna, spaghetti and even Taco Tuesday are very popular in the USA. When your family chooses take-out from time to time, you’ll probably be eating Chinese or pizza. Other popular and typical American dishes are: Thanksgiving dinner (turkey), cheeseburger, Reuben sandwich, hot dogs, Philly cheese steak, nachos, Chicago-style pizza, apple pie, BLT… 

Must try S'mores when on exchange!

The classic American S’more consists of a delicious combination of chocolate, crackers and marshmallows, the perfect snack while on vacation or camping under the stars. The Girls Scouts originated them in 1927, and they have become an essential experience of fireside camping. They roasted marshmallows and squished them between graham crackers with a bar of chocolate. Almost every American is fond of this snack, since it is really easy to prepare and it just makes every camping event a lot cozier

Geography

Climate

Depending on the latitude of the region, mountains and deserts, the climate varies a lot in the United States. The climate in the west is mostly semi-arid to arid, while the far southwestern United States is known for its deserts. In the east, on the other hand, there’s a more humid climate and the weather becomes humid subtropical in southeastern areas, such as in the states on the Gulf Coast. While the regions around California mostly have a Mediterranean climate, the states in the upper West Coast are characterized by cool temperate oceanic weather. Higher-elevation areas, such as the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range and the Wasatch and Bighorn mountain ranges are alpine climates. The United States is thus not only very diverse in population, but also in climate.

Nature

The USA is known for its spectacular biodiversity, including tropical rain forests, hot deserts, high mountains topped by glaciers, grasslands and even active volcanic zones. Several magnificent natural wonders, protected by the National Park Service, exist in the United States, offering a safe haven for a diversity of wildlife.


One of the top 10 wonders is Yosemite National Park, known for the largest waterfalls in North America: the Yosemite Falls. This mountain range, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is carved by glaciers and is home to a wide array of wildlife. The best time in the year to visit this park is in the late spring, since it is less hectic than in the summer. 

Another natural landmark of the U.S. is definitely the Grand Canyon, in the state of Arizona. Native Americans have lived in this region for more than thousands of years, building settlements in this site’s caves. The Grand Canyon was also considered a holy site by the Pueblo people, who made pilgrimages to it. Besides sightseeing, plenty of other activities are popular as well, such as hiking, running, helicopter tours, rafting and skydiving. 


The biggest trees in the world are Redwoods, even taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and grow in the beautiful rainforests of Redwood National and State Parks, California. In addition to one of the most massive tree species on Earth, these parks also offer cultural resources, grassland prairie and endemic fauna and flora. The rain forests are also home to a variety of threatened animal species, including the Steller’s sea lion and the tidewater goby. 

Did you know...

That the official state animal of California is the grizzly bear? However, no one have spotted a bear there since 1922?

That three of the world’s five oldest rivers flow here? The New River, the Susquehanna and the French Broad Rivers are each hundreds of millions years old. 

That the lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. measured -80°F (or -62 degrees Celsius) at Prospect Creek, Alaska? 

That the highest temperature in the U.S. was recorded in Death Valley and measured 134°F (56°C)?

Language


The set of varieties of the language spoken in the United States is called American English. It is the most common language spoken both by the general public and the federal government as a result of the British colonization of North America. Although there exists a lot of variation in spoken American English, written U.S. English is standardized across the country. The sound of the language keeps developing and while some local accents are fading away, other regional accents are emerging. The most widespread dialects originate in the East Coast, the Midwest and the Midland. 
Language lessons are not mandatory to be able to participate in a YFU exchange program. However, minimal scores on the ELTiS test are required. Your host family will definitely appreciate the effort you make in learning their language, which is an excellent start to your experience abroad! Most of the students who go on exchange to the United States speak some basic English and have the opportunity to improve their language skills significantly. However, even when you don’t know how to communicate in English, you will be able to do so after only three months in the U.S.! In the beginning, speaking a foreign language all day will be very overwhelming but you will definitely get more comfortable in communicating in English during your exchange experience. 

Language learning tools

On the YouTube Channel of “Daily English Conversations” you can learn Basic English words and sentences: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV1h_cBE0Drdx19qkTM0WN. Or you can also use this convenient website: http://www.learn-english-onlin.... Besides these online learning tools, it’s also good idea to start listening to English music and watch some English spoken movies with subtitles in your native language. 

Movies and music

The United States is known for being the largest music market of the world.

Its multi-ethnic population is reflected through various styles and its music is heard all around the world. Some very popular styles include jazz, blues, rock (and roll), and hip hop. American musical meaning is probably most determined by the relationship between music and race. Around 1950, African American music styles became an essential part of the mainstream American music. Nowadays, all races in America consume and enjoy these music styles. 

hip hop

Hip Hop music is part of the larger cultural Hip Hop movement and was born in the early 1970s in the Bronx in New York City. In the 1980s, Hip Hop became more popular and the music was integrated in the mainstream American music industry. Some musicians combined hip hop with funk and soul, techno, jazz and heavy metal or experimented with social awareness and polarized lyrics. As a result, new styles were born in the late 1980s such as alternative hip hop.  A subgenre of hip hop is Gangsta rap, with lyrics focusing on dangerous criminal images, macho sexuality and physicality. Rappers in several different regions soon started to apply this Gangsta Rap, which still has a major influence on American popular music in the 21st century. 

r&b and soul

R&B (Rhythm and Blues) arose in the 1930s and 1940s, but wasn’t promoted by record companies because the suggestive lyrics were considered to be offensive to middle-class white audiences. Soul music, on the other hand, is composed of R&B and gospel and uses gospel-music devices, emphasizing vocalists and using secular themes. In the late 1950s, Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cooke introduced soul music to the broader public. James Brown is also famous for turning R&B into soul and soul music into funk. In the 1970s and '80s, the first contemporary R&B stars such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Tina Turner arose. Michael Jackson and Prince are both considered to be two of the most influential figures in popular music, thanks to their eclectic use of different genres.

Music festivals

When on exchange in the U.S.A, you’ll come across many fun music and movies festivals. One such music festival is the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival in New York, (July 2017): https://www.fest300.com/festivals/brooklyn-hip-hop-festival. This energetic, lively event is an example of how differences between people can be overcome and how people can find commonality in music, street art and community.  If you’re more into blues, then the Chicago Blues Festival from June 12 to June 14 (link to festival: https://www.fest300.com/festivals/chicago-blues-festival) will be a good choice. The festival commemorates the city’s heritage and the musicians who spent their whole lives playing blues. Besides the great music, you can also get some delicious food there. 

Film festivals

Film festivals are also very popular in the USA. The New York Film Festival is often considered as the ‘granddaddy’ of these festivals. More than 30 films are usually featured there and plenty of the major films are also showcased at other film festivals, such as the ones in Cannes (France) and Venice (Italy). Take a look at this website to figure out more film festivals in America: http://www.topeventsusa.com/top-film-festivals-USA.html. 

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