Photo: Faysal and his hosts and friends at high school graduation in Spring 2018.
By: Faysal Al Haddad (YES 2017 - 2018, Lebanon, hosted by ASSE in Jourdanton, TX)
I just got off a video call with my host family and I felt the need to share my story. I can feel all of my exchange year go through my veins right now as if it is a video tape that only needed a small push of a button to start playing. I never really can or will fully realize that my exchange has actually happened. It still feels like a dream. It's been almost three months since I left Texas. Nothing has ever really been the same since then.
On June 5th, I left my home to go back home. I left my family to go back to my family. I left my friends to go back to my friends. I still wonder to this very day, how did I, a 16-year old, have this much courage in the first place to go on exchange. But I am glad that my 16 year-old self never doubted himself and continued on this one in a life-time journey.
Photos: left, Faysal's host family welcomes him in August 2017; right, Faysal says goodbye to his host family in June 2018
I can't deny how grateful I am for going on exchange. The Faysal that came home in June was not the same Faysal that left in August. I have grown in so many ways. I have matured on my own. I encountered situations that I never even knew would happen. I gained strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which I really stopped to look fear in the face. In June, I was able to say to myself, "I lived through these challenges. I can take the next thing that comes along." In that very moment, I knew that my exchange year was just beginning of a life full of adventures. I realized that I still have way more experience to gain and way more to discover.
At the end of the day, my exchange year wouldn't have been this special if it were not to my host family that treated me like one of them. I cannot name one time where I felt lonely while I was living under their roof. They offered me everything that any exchange student needs.
What's special about all of this is the unbreakable and everlasting bond that my host family grew together. It all started with a video call in March 2017 after I got my placement and here I am today writing this story after a video call, after catching up with them on everything new.