Student Stories

Labiba Manzur (2019-2020) Portland, Oregon

“It all started on the 6th of August 2019, when I landed in the land of dreams, the United States of America! When I applied to the YES program, I knew right then that I had a lot to see, a lot to learn, and a lot to experience! I finally came out of my own tiny little bubble and dared to see the world in a whole new perspective and needless to say, I am glad I made this decision.

I have been in the school’s dance team, seen snow for the very first time, been to homecoming, enjoyed Halloween and Thanksgiving, and my host family’s Christmas party. However, the best experiences were all the small and often unexpected experiences such as getting a compliment from a complete stranger, going skiing, seeing eagles and hawks flying over the soccer field, discovering that there exist trees with seaweed on them, and passing by the long beautiful bridges in Portland, having eye-opening conversations with inspiring people, going on unplanned road trips with my friends, taking the trash out with my host mom and suddenly start dancing with my host sisters and just realizing that anything is possible.

Everything I have experienced in America has taught me something very valuable. I will never be able to express my level of gratitude for all the amazing people I’ve met and all the opportunities I was gifted with just because I said YES.”

Anika Tabassum (2018-2019) Westville, Indiana

For me life is just like a book with different chapters including some best and worst sections of life. The book of my life had a great chapter during the best 300 days of my life that I spent in The United States during my exchange year. When I first stepped in that country I could only imagine how my life would be during these ten months, but it turned out way better than I imagined. Every day of my exchange was adding a new page to my book. The best moment of my book was when my host mom said, “Anika we are going on a vacation after thanksgiving,” while making dinner one day. I knew my host family loved to go camping in nearby cities so I thought it was one of them. I asked her where we would be going as I thought it was another camping trip. My mom’s reply shocked me as she said, “We are going to Walt Disney Resorts in Florida.” I was speechless. I and my siblings started counting days.

Finally the day arrived on Black Friday (the Friday after thanksgiving in the US). We left for the trip by road. From inches of snow in Indiana to bright sun shine in Florida, we were finally in the land of Mickey and Minnie Mouse after 20 hours of driving through four states. I had the best week of my life during the best year of my life in Disney with my family. The best part was to be able to go on a ride after hours of waiting in line, it felt like conquering The Everest. There were coin pressed machines at the end of each ride, we collected almost all of them in a pressed coin wallet. Among all four theme parks I liked animal kingdom and epcot the most. Lighting the magic castle with snow to welcome winter was the most amazing of all. We had a lot of fun watching Elsa showing her magic on the castle with Anna, Christoph and Olaf. But every chapter has an end, so we had to say goodbye to Disney. The hardest goodbye for me was the goodbye that I said to my host family at the end of my exchange year. Though the chapter of my exchange year was done I felt like something was going to be missing in my book and it was seeing these people every day, who became a part of my life in these ten months. I started the chapter from not knowing these people to becoming a part of the family and having a fear of not meeting them again. Now being 8000 miles away from my family I recall every moment that I spent with them, turning pages back in my exchange year. Two years ago I used to miss my family back in Bangladesh and now I miss my family back in the United States. All because of me said yes to YES.

Thank you so much YES for giving me the best host family and to my host family for giving me the best year of my life.

Nuzhat Hayat Khan (2018-2019) El Paso, Texas

When I look back at my YES year now, I can’t but think about how it has truly shaped me into who I am today. I had the life experiences of an adult at just the age of 15. I learnt to be grateful, kind and responsible. El Paso, Texas gave me my first snow, my first Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, and also my first Chico’s Tacos. But most importantly it gave me a family that would last forever! Each day was a new experience. I had never traveled so much in a year before YES and I’m not going to lie, getting to see so much around the country- from Washington DC, to San Diego, California- was absolutely one of my most favorite parts! Your exchange is truly a life, in a year.

Mardia Hoque (2019-2020) Seattle, Washington

YES Program helped me to discover a whole new world as well as myself. At the age of 15, I found myself on the other side of the planet, in the United States of America. My exchange year was quite an adventure. I tried things I never tried before and learned things that I never knew before. I learned to be responsible, independent and to always have a positive mindset. I challenged myself to learn new things, be it cooking or playing a guitar. I discovered my passion for hiking and I fell in love with the mountains, the lakes and the endless blue sky. During my exchange year, I found a second home, a second family and friends from all over the world. To be precise, YES taught me the true meaning of global citizenship.

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