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Younger Perspectives

  • May 25, 2024 6:56 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of Tasneem (on right) and friendby Yasmin Madmoune 

    I grew up in Queens, NY: my mother is from Jamaica; I spent summers in Morocco where my fathers family is from. Last year I began traveling solo exploring what it means to travel intentionally, especially what it means to be Black wherever I travel. This is one reason I began to learn Portuguese. 56% of Brazilians identify as Black—the largest population of African descent outside of Africa. Brazil was often the first destination of Atlantic slave traders. Participating in SYLE during Carnival would be a dream come true. Visions of movies I’d seen danced through my head as did clips of Beyonce’s Renaissance tour, pictures of bikini-wearing people on the beach at Ipanema, and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.  

    I flew into Salvador and immediately took a Blablacar (ride share) more than 350 kilometers to Aracaju, a place I knew nothing about. The ride was scenic, not just the mountains, but the advertisements seemingly etched into them, and long – it took nearly six hours to go less than 220 milesMy first hosts were Luisa and Raul. Luisa welcomed me into their apartment home with sweet coconut cake and cashew juice. While Ive no allergies,I’ve hated nuts my whole life. But I was raised to be a good guest, and once Luisa translated the name of Aracaju: Ara – for Land of the Parrots and Caju, for the nut, I knew I would have to try the yellowish, opaque juice. I liked it! In fact, I decided to reconsider my dislike of nuts  

    When Luisa’s husband Raul came home from work, he went into the kitchen to fix himself some couscous. I didn’t understand how he could do that. Summers in Morocco we had couscous every Friday and preparing it was an all-day process for my aunt. Couscous has many ingredients and is served over semolina grains. Imagine my surprise on that night, when Luisa husband, Raul came home from work he went into the kitchen to fix himself some when Raul came out of the kitchen seven minutes later with a plate mixed with egg, sausage, cheese and couscous. I found out this version of couscous is popular in Brazil that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. II returned to Salvador which is home to the largest population of Black people outside of Africa. . Although I didn’t have a Servas host in Salvador, I was able to meet up with a day host, Everton, who took me around the Pelourinho neighborhood to experience my first night of carnival. In Brazil, Carnival means blocos or block parties. Different bands and samba schools use different blocks as their base where they play and sing and dance all hours of the day and night. People dress in all sorts of costumes shiny with different colors of glitter fill the street and dance away their inhibitions. Delicious food is also part of Carnival, but I struggled to find food to eat. I am Muslim and so don'eat pork. I quickly learned that Brazilians love pork. My three months of DuoLingo had only given me one word for pork, but Brazilians loved it by many names and did not consider things like bacon or ham pork! “Nao comoporcoor “I don’t eat pork,” was not enough. I soon realized that ordering seafood would be the safest way to avoid the ubiquitous ingredient. 

    photo of Tasneem with friendsOverall, Salvador was beautiful. A place where I was surrounded by Black people who seemed a bit more in touch with their roots as evidenced by their traditional outfits and style. Flyers distributed throughout Carnival and comments from the stage declared that Salvador was not a place for “racism, homophobia or any kind of intolerance.” one of the things that surprised me the most, was seeing the Yaz symbol or the North African Amazigh symbol meaning “The Free People” etched into the base of a building in the old historic town of Pelorinho. My father's side of the family is Amazig and it really made me think about the effects of slavery and interconnectedness across the globe. Salvador is a blend of Africa and South America. It reminded me of home (Africa) in a way that I never experienced in South America before.  

    Although I was sad to leave Salvador, I was super excited to go to Rio di Janeiro.  Although Sao Paolo is larger, people compare the liveliness and vibe of Rio to New York. I was particularly excited to see the Sambodrome, or Samba schools show. According to my research, the Sambodromeis one of the highlights of carnival. Samba schools each pick a theme, create floats, songs and costumes and battle for the best Samba school of the year. The elaborate costumes adorned in bright colors, feathers and sequins coupled with the live music reminded me a lot of Caribbean carnival. I was giddy to witness it for myself; it did not disappoint.  

    As soon as I entered the stadium and heard the live, vibrant music I couldn’t help but move my body to the beat. I had never seen such an elaborate parade. Each samba school danced through the Sambodrome, shaking the stadium with their music -- you couldn’t help but sing along. Each school took about an hour to cross the Sambodrome. Six schools performed; the show didn’t end until 8 o'clock the next morning. Even though I got tired, I knew I had to stay and watch all the performances since it was the Winners Show with the top six schools competing to be the best of Carnival season. The stadium was still full as the sun rosekids of all ages were still running around, chasing each other, and their elders joyfully played their own tambourines to the beat of each song. I couldn’t believe it when I learned that the Sambodrome, a huge stadium right smack in the middle of the city, was only used at Carnival. As a businesswoman, and a New Yorker, whose city is known for hustling, I began to think of all the different ways the Sambodrome might be repurposed to maximize revenue throughout the year.  Click HERE to continue.

  • March 28, 2024 1:09 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of six young people each holding their national flagby Lee Rowley & Tys Sniffen 

    US Servas is working to re-energize our SYLE program (Servas Young–adult Language Experience) both by finding SYLE hosts AND by encouraging our younger members to become SYLE travelers.  You might recommend SYLE to a younger Servas member (18-30) in your extended family or circle of friends who would be interested in this language/travel experience. This is a great time to think about and plan for SYLE (early spring planning for a summer experience).

    U.S. Servas SYLE Programs provide one-week stays with four different US hosts.  Would you, or someone in your extended family or network of friends, be interested in hosting a SYLE traveler for one week?  If you are interested, please tell us (see below) so we can put you on the list of potential hosts. If you are asked to host a SYLE you can always decline, just like a regular Servas visit. No harm, no foul.

    US Servas has a limited number of $500 needs-based scholarships available this calendar year that could be used for SYLE travel expenses.  SYLE hosts of course provide food and lodging, but SYLE travelers are responsible for their own incidental expenses, including local travel, dining out, museums or similar entrance fees, etc.

    US Servas is compiling a list of our members who would be willing to host a SYLE visitor for one week.  If you are interested in becoming a SYLE host, or you know someone who might be interested in traveling via a SYLE, or if you have questions, please email

  • February 21, 2024 11:42 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of Santi with Meg Holland at Red Sox baseball gameby Santiago Heusser, 

    Hey, I’m Santiago Heusser, a 16-year-old highschool student from Chile, Who loves to play volleyball. I’m going to share my awesome month-long trip to the US with SYLE. 

    So, it all kicked off when I was 14. I really wanted to do a semester exchange in the US, but it was way too pricey, so that dream fizzled out. But then my grandpa, who's the president of Servas Chile, hooked me up with this cool opportunity to explore the US, stay with awesome people, and soak up the culture. My dad and grandpa set me up with four amazing hosts, and off I went to the United States.  

    Photo of Santi with Servas International president, Radha RadhakrishnaPhoto of Santi in Times Square, NYCFirst stop: New York City with Radha Radhakrishna, President of Servas International. NYC was a whirlwind of sights and experiences! From checking out the Statue of Liberty to trying (almost) every food there was to try.  I got to see a lot of what Manhattan has to offer in the week I had.I’m really proud of myself for that one.itwas non-stop excitement! 

    Photo of Santi serving a volleyball

    Next up, Massachusetts and the coast near Boston with Heidi Gorton. Her place was superchill, and we hit the beach a couple times for some volleyball action. We even celebrated Chile's National Day with homemade completos (Chilean hotdogs) Talk about feeling at home!

    Then it was off to the Boston suburb ofNewton, with Meg Holland. We checked out Berklee College of Music, Harvard, and MIT,. I played tons of volleyball there, and even caught a Red Sox game. Plus, I got to meet some of Meg's Chilean friends from church. 

    The grand finale? A road trip with Kelly Sackheim. We cruised through Massachusetts and Vermont, feeding deer, hiking mountains, and doing all sorts of awesome stuff. It was the perfect ending to my US adventure. 

    I wrapped things up at the US Servas conference, where everyone was super welcoming and curious about my trip. This whole experience was mind-blowing. I made memories and friends that will stick with me for the rest of my life. SYLE totally changed me! 

    Photo of Santi at US Servas national conference. Note, Kelly Sackheim is behind him in a blue shirt

  • January 22, 2024 7:28 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of Hannah By Hannah McKenzie   

    Hannah joined US Servas in 2022 and lives in Chicago 

    I began my SYLE experience in São Paulo, Brazil, and then moved on to meet my hosts in Rio de Janeiro (where I am now based). SYLE is the Servas Youth Language Experience in which youth ages 18-30 are able to spend a month in the country of your choice immersed in the local language and culture. I completed a four-week intensive course in Brazilian Portuguese at a language school located just beside the famous Ipanema Beach. My experience with SYLE was perhaps a bit unusual, as it was not a stand-alone month of travel but rather the beginning of a longer chapter I will have here in Brazil.  

    • • • Note - Hover mouse over photos to see caption, click to see full-sized images • • •

    When I arrived in São Paulo, I was welcomed graciously by Servas member Elaine. She is a Portuguese literature teacher, and we had fascinating conversations about politics, Brazilian culture, and the deeper layers of her own language. I remember her talking about the profound nature of the difference between the verbs estar (to be, temporarily) and ser (to be, permanently); I thought about my intentions for my time in Brazil, how I want to create a life here in which I can say not only that “estou feliz” (estar) –enjoying Rio’s beauty, finding my comforts here—but also that “sou feliz” (ser), that I have put in the energy necessary in search of my deeper satisfaction, connection, and inspiration. 

    Photo of Elaine's Rocket and other animation piecesElaine made me feel so comfortable in her home; her warm and curious spirit is something special. I enjoyed sitting and chatting in her living room, which at the time was covered with beautiful paper stars and rockets from the animation she was working on. During a big storm on Photo of Jabuticaba fruit growing on trunk of treemy second night in the city, we ate the Brazilian fruit jabuticaba, a sweet grape-shaped fruit that grows straight on tree trunks.  

    After I visited São Paulo, I moved on to Rio and met several other Servas hosts, both the few I lived with and others who I met just as day hosts. I was welcomed by Salvador and Zula, and their sons Alvaro and Alexandre. Simba, Zula and Salvador’s dog. Rio de JaneiroThey introduced me to crepioca, a breakfast crepe made from eggs, milk, and tapioca (a starch made from cassava root). I loved seeing Zula’s beautiful embroidery art and am grateful to the whole family for their patience with my Portuguese. I have been learning the language much more quickly thanks to the generosity of people like them.  

    Deolinda also hosted me for some time in Rio. The walls of her home are covered with her vibrant art, paintings full of life and color just as she is. Deo is a precious person; she moves through the world with total energy and inspiration. She is quick to laugh and has a kind heart, and I consider her a dear friend of mine in Rio. Christmas lunch with Deolinda’s family. Rio de Janeiro. She has been kind to share many language tips with me too, having worked for many years as a Portuguese teacher for foreigners in Rio. I have gotten to know her extended family, as she has continued to include me in her family events—including Christmas celebrations—even after I’ve moved out. I have been very grateful for this kind of inclusion, like being invited to Andre (another Servas host)’s birthday party. In this way, SYLE has already provided me something special beyond the month-long program itself.  

    Antique photos of Rio from an art book in Deo’s home Not only has the program provided me with a structure for language immersion that has helped me a great deal with learning Portuguese, but this experience has introduced me to a wonderful community and support network.

    I have met other young Servas travelers passing through Rio, and now sincerely feel that I am part of this larger community of  of cultural sharing and understanding. I am so grateful to all my wonderful Servas hosts who have made me feel so welcome in Brazil. I am endlessly appreciative of Dennis Mogerman for the scholarship, which enabled me to have this immersive language experience and begin my new chapter in Brazil with such warmth and support.  

    At Deo’s (at left) house, meeting Servas travelers Mette and Sondre from Denmark

  • September 16, 2023 8:59 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of youth standing in a Spanish plaza while holding signs saying "hello" in multiple languagesYour Passport to the Servas Youth Language Experience! 

    by Tys Sniffen

    Are you between the ages of 18 and 30? Are you ready to dive headfirst into an exciting world of languages, cultures, and unforgettable experiences?  Or are you a host who could imagine a longer-term stay with a young person from another country? TheServas Youth Language Experience, - SYLE – is an amazing opportunity for Servas members.  

    The Buzz About SYLE: Simply put – it’s Servas but longer term – think four weeks of immersion in a home setting where one can truly work on learning a language.  

    What Makes SYLE So Awesome? 

    1. Languages for real: Forget boring textbooks and snooze-worthy lectures. With SYLE, you're diving into language learning with all the trimmings: food, daily routines, and just hanging out. SYLE participants stay with locals who speak the language: it’s the best way to pick up a language in the most natural and fun way possible. 

    1. Culture Crash Course: We're not stopping at languages, folks. SYLE throws participants right into the heart of local life. Savor delicious foods, dance to new beats, and celebrate traditions you never knew existed. Servas can make this happen.   

    1. Gain Confidence: Living in a new place and navigating uncharted territory are a huge part of growing into a global citizen. SYLE isn't just about languages and cultures – it's a crash course in personal growth. SYLErsemerge more confident, adaptable, and ready to take on whatever life throws their way. 

    1. Friendship Fiesta: Here's the cherry on top: the friendships forged during SYLE are the real deal. After connecting with locals who open their homes and hearts, and guess what? These connections are often for life. It's like building a global squad of pals who've got your back, no matter where you roam. 

    The SYLE Magic: 

    1. World Wisdom: SYLE's all about breaking down barriers and building bridges. Gain a deep, firsthand understanding of cultures that goes beyond travel brochures and Google searches. 

    1. Talk the Talk: Don’t just learn a language; live it! Conversations won't be limited to ordering food – chat, laugh, and connect on a whole new level with locals. 

    1. Adventure Awaits: SYLE is like a hero's journey. Discover your inner explorer, conquer challenges, and come out the other side with stories that'll have your friends' jaws dropping. 

    1. Global Squad: SYLE transforms you into a global citizen with a heart full of empathy and a backpack full of memories. Your network of friends expands across the globe, and suddenly, the world feels a whole lot smaller (in the best way possible). 

    1. Forever Footprints: The bonds you create during SYLE don't fade away. They stick with you, serving as a reminder of the amazing people out there and the extraordinary experiences to be had. 

    So, there you have it, the lowdown on why SYLE is the coolest thing since sliced bread. If you're ready to ride a whirlwind of languages, cultures, and friendships that'll last a lifetime, SYLE's waiting with open arms – your passport to unforgettable adventures! 

  • July 07, 2023 11:32 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of youth in fron tof chalkboard and various national flagsby Lee Rowley 

    The US Servas Board has been busy collaborating with our colleagues from Italy, Spain and Israel to invigorate our SYLE (Servas Youth Language Experience) program.  We define youth as ages 18-30.   

    If you, your extended family, friends, or neighbors would like to host a youth from another country for approximately one week, please let us know.  US Servas can coordinate a home stay at your home based on your preferences.  There are many youths from other parts of the world, especially in Servas countries that have well-established STYLE programs: Spain, Italy and Israel, for example, who would be very interested in having an immersion experience here in the US.  What is required?  Simply to include the traveler in your family meals, as well as to provide sleeping accommodations for approximately one week. 

    Another option: If you have someone in your immediate or extended family, friends or neighbors who would like to send a youth for a 4-6 week immersion experience to improve language skills or cultural immersion, consider the SYLE program.  The youth traveler would be responsible for transportation and spending money.  The host family will provide meals and sleeping accommodations.  Travel to another country for four weeks would be coordinated by Servas representatives from the host country and would entail the youth traveler staying with approximately four families. 

    US Servas is looking forward to jump-starting this program and to engaging our younger members in this exciting endeavor.If you would like to learn more, or to have a deeper conversation about our SYLE program, please use this Contact Us form or the link at the bottom of any US Servas webpage.

  • June 08, 2023 5:16 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of lake with Italian Alps in the backgroundServas France and Italy invite Servas members between the ages of 18 and 35 to join them at an Eco-Camp in Val Maira, Italy. There will be sustainability, peace tours (Val Maira was the refuge and headquarters of Italian Resistance fighters in both World Wars), and intercultural workshops. Hiking, of course! Spend evenings around a bonfire – sing, dance, make music, share a special activity from your home, share s’mores recipes.  

    There is a limit of 28 places. After that number has registered, there will be a waiting list. Registration closes on June 30th with payment made by July 15th. The cost is 100€ which includes lodging for 5 nights, food, activities and the shuttle.   

    If you have questions please contact us at 



    Cuneo is in the southwestern Piedmont. 

    Many airports are nearby: Nice, Milan, Turin. From any of these, drive, train or bus to Cuneo where you will meet a shuttle to Rifugio Sant’Ana, 12020 Roccabruna, Cuneo. 

    If you would like to arrive before or stay a little longer you could contact local Servas members in advance.The arrangers would be happy to help. 


    • Sleeping bag or sheets, mattress if you sleep in a tent 

    • Waterproof windbreaker or similar 

    • Warm clothes for evenings 

    • Sports clothes for day 

    • Hiking shoes/sneakers, a second pair of shoes/sandals 

    • Hat/cap/visor, sunglasses 

    • Small backpack for day trips 

    • Flashlight and batteries 

    • Water bottle 

    • Personal mess kit and utensils, personal cup 

    • Toiletries (biodegradable products preferred) 

    • Sunscreen(we will be at 5,000 feet) 

    • Musical instrument, book, lightweight game -- optional 

  • May 04, 2023 12:42 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    poster-style graphic of children holding hands around the earth Attendees of the 2021 US Servas conference in N. Carolina might recall the delightful children's art displayed around the room. These were the winners of the 2020 Peace Pals International Art Contest. What a wonderful way to expose your kids or grandkids to thinking about peace in a way that might inspire them. Maybe their art will hang on the world stage instead of the fridge.Peace Pals International is associated with May Peace Prevail On Earth, Inc. They are now accepting submissions forthe 26th annual children's art contest.  

    This year's contest is based on the theme "Unity". Unity is being together or at one with someone or something. It’s the opposite of being divided. This is a word for togetherness or oneness. Children should create an image of what this means to them. The contest has four age categories ranging from 5 to 16. All artworks must be original and drawn by the participants. Click to learn more about Peace Pals, see the contest Rules and Guidelines, or see Previous Winners. 

    NOTE: Artwork submission deadline is August 31, 2023 

  • April 03, 2023 3:13 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Would you like to have a language and cultural immersion experience with Servas?  The Servas SYLE program offers younger Servas members (18 to 30) an opportunity to widen their knowledge of a language by immersing themselves in another culture. Hospitality is offered by Servas hosts and organized in the spirit of generosity and cooperation between Servas groups in different countries. The program involves young people in the everyday life of their host family and local community. US Servas offers some financial assistance to participate in this program.

    Registration should be made 3 to 4 months before your planned travel. Here is a link to the Registration Form. Submit your application to for more information visit the Servas International SYLE webpage. If you still have questions feel free to email

  • October 23, 2022 2:23 PM | Deirdre Marlowe (Administrator)

    You can purchase this year's International Day of Peace t-shirt (with a peacock!) or  any other SERVAS t-shirt design here. Profits support Youth Activities.

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