By Marcus Mesherky (YES 2017-2018, Israel (Arab communities), hosted by AYUSA in Amity, Oregon).
At the beginning of my exchange year, I was placed in Texas and it was exciting at first. I loved the part of Texas I was in and I had just started making friends. Unfortunately, my host family and I were not completely compatible with one another. Needless to say, I was devastated when I had to move out of my host family's house and change schools.
I was out of school for a month, alone and misplaced. I was happy when I heard I was getting a new family, but also discouraged because it meant moving to a new community in a different state. I was back to being the new kid. I said goodbye to my friends and goodbye to Texas and took off to Oregon! I was optimistic and hoping for the best!
Once I got to Oregon, I felt homesick and physically ill. It was not a good week for me. I found myself reminiscing over Texas and my home in Israel, despite having the support of my new host family. By the time I recovered from being sick, it was already Halloween. After a difficult start to my exchange year, I am happy to say I had an awesome Halloween. It was a great experience and I even went trick-or-treating and to a party!
I went back to school after Halloween and realized I was still unknown to most of my peers and slightly alone. It occurred to me that I had collected a lot of candy! I decided I could use the excessive amount of candy to come out of my shell and my shyness.
I would bring some candy to school each day and hand it out randomly to people. Soon enough, I was striking conversations here and there! I had three new friends and many acquaintances by the end of my first week handing out candy. I was quite excited and I realized the key to people's hearts is candy!
By the end of the weekend, I knew I had it in me to make friends and step outside of my comfort zone. I didn't need the candy to strike up conversations, I had it in me all along! The confidence and friendliness I had shown towards people attracted the friends I made. Three weeks later and my friends' list is still growing! The candy gave me a reason to start a conversation with someone and now I can do that easily!
I'm three months into my exchange year and I can honestly say it has changed me for the better! I'm more confident, outspoken and thoughtful. I had to overcome many obstacles such as moving, feeling misplaced, lonely and depressed. However, I managed to get through them, start fresh and make new friends!