Keynote Speakers and Challengers

Benedikt WidmaierBenedikt Widmaier is a political scientist and director of the Akademie für politische und soziale Bildung "Haus am Maiberg" (Academy for politic and social education), board member of the Association of Catholic social education works (Arbeitsgemeinschaft katholisch-sozialer Bildungswerke – AKSB) and the German Association for Civic Education (Deutsche Vereinigung für politische Bildung – DVPB). In addition, he is a member of the editorial team of Journal für Politische Bildung (Journal of Political Education), with current topics of focus being: political education, international youth work, theory of democracy, political participation, active citizenship, history and theory of political education and remembrance in Europe.


Anatoli RakhkochkineProf. Dr. Anatoli Rakhkochkine is currently professor of international and intercultural comparative educational science at the University Leipzig. There, he is director of a project on the international dimensions of teacher education and which is developing an internet-based qualification for teachers, improving intercultural exchange and connections in teacher education. Current topics of focus in his research include: international comparative deductive, internationalisation of schools, international comparison of teacher education, as well as educational policy, systems and research in Eastern Europe. Prof. Dr. Rakhkochkine is a member in the European educational research association which aims to further high quality educational research for the benefit of education and society.

Julia-ZimmermannDr. Julia Zimmerman currently works as a scientific associate for educational psychology at the University of Hagen. Since completing her PhD, her research has focused on the field of youth exchange and the connected personality structures of  long-term exchange participants.  Furthermore she worked on the project Mobilität und Identität (Mobility and Identity) of the University of Jena which addressed the interaction between mobility and identity and the consequences of this interaction for individuals. Since early 2015, she has been working on an evaluation study a pilot project of YFU Germany in Great Britain and Ireland where she is investigating the impact of a household subsidy to families on the relationship between exchange participants and host families.

Jean-Pierre DardaudJean-Pierre Dardaud has for the past 40 years, been involved in social fieldwork in India and France, as well in international peace and social campaigns. Currently he is the head of JINOV (Youth, Initiatives and Non-Violence), a network that encourages the initiatives of young people who want to build a better world.  JINOV views young people as major actors of social innovations that help to create a world of less violence, more justice and many more smiles. Among other areas, his analytical and investigative work currently focuses on the articulation between personal, professional and citizenship issues put in practice through young people’s solidarity and commitment and the ways and means of democratizing access to this valuable resource as a positive experience of international mobility.  He also is looking into means of opening these experiences to other young people from diverse backgrounds, as well as progressive paths of the constructive incorporation experiences of otherness, at personal and societal levels, faced by young people during international and intercultural mobility experiences of all types.

Pierre WillaumePierre Willaume is currently pedagogical director and trainer at Association Recherche et Formation (Association of Research and Training) and studied interpersonal communication and coaching in Palo Alto, California.  He has worked to create training modules on management and the acquisition and transmission of knowledge, languages and intercultural development; two of which were won awards in the innovation competition at Expolangues in 1993 and 1994. He has worked in such diverse contexts such as West Africa, Hungary and Iraqi Kurdistan, undertaking training for both large and small companies.  He holds a degree in Educational Sciences from the University of Tours and is an accredited professional trainer of adults.  He is author of Comment les voyages forment la jeunesse (How travels develop young people).

Erin+HellandErin Helland is YFU USA’s director of the new Virtual Exchange Initiative, which goal is to “to bring intercultural learning opportunities to underserved communities around the world”.
E. Helland is responsible for the establishment of YFU USA’s Marketing and Communications department, and was its director for four years. At this position she achieved, amongst others, the spearheading of the adoption of a global brand in 60 countries
She is an advocacy professional and in this perspective, has been principal champion of a coalition that urged legislators on Capitol Hill to restore funding of a popular German-US exchange program.
Additionnally Erin Helland founded an independent coffeehouse and volunteers with several nonprofits. She also is a returnee from Germany.

awAndreas Westerwinter is a diplomatic and strategic advisers to governments and multinational companies.
He previously worked at UNESCO and served the UK Deputy Permanent Delegate to UNESCO as well as International Policy Adivsor to the Minister of Education in the Solomon Islands.
He studied Anthropology, History and Foreign Language Training in Leipzig, Aix-en- Provence, Bologna and Paris.
Andreas is a YFU alumnus (Germany to Indiana, USA) and active volunteer with YFU France.


AF_SigridSigrid Solnik is currently working as a secretary-general for Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation which means that topics of interculturality, global education and social movements for equality take up the bigger part of her days. Sigrid has been a YFU volunteer since 2002 and has been involved into educational work through YFU as well as Estonian Debating Society. She's been busy on practical level, trying to piece together civic education, different cultures, achievment of changes in official curricula and related methods and youth's general interest in global issues. Having been trained as an anthropologist, her academical interests lay in identity, its markers and changes as well as in opportunities of applied social sciences.


Foto_Guido_FreyGuido Frey is Managing Director from Intermundo, the Swiss umbrella association for the promotion of youth exchange.
Intermundo published 2015 a meta-studie: Impact compendium on youth exchange. The paper is an overview for scientific research results on the impact of intercultural exchange.
In the past 25 years, Guido Frey has been involved in intercultural work. 1992 – 1999 he managed a project in Portugal establishing social structures among families and young people. In his later work in development and cooperation, he focused on project implementation and communication in Eastern Europe.
Since early 2013 he directs Intermundo and is building the Swiss competence center in Youth Mobility.


Kerry Halferty HardyKerry Halferty Hardy is current a lecturer for the INSEEC-Paris MBA Business-Diplomacy programme and has extensive experience in the non-profit and healthcare sectors.  Her previous posts have included Chief Development Officer at the American Hospital of Paris, and Director of Development at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at the Johns Hopkins University.  She is actively engaged on several boards, advises think tanks around the world, and is also very committed to mentoring young people.



Helena PetäistöHelena Petäistö is s a Finnish journalist and writer based in Paris.  Her diverse journalistic experience has included columns in Suomen Kuvalehteen and being the French corrspondant for MTV3 in Finland.  Her first book, Ranskalaiset korot, was realeased in 1995 and she went on to publish a series of books on a variety of European cities.