By Merima Muhic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, NC)
The YES alumni community in Bosnia and Herzegovina has an annual event to celebrate the 4th of July. This event is a great opportunity for alumni to catch up with each other, reminisce on our exchange years, and do a community service project. This year, all of our activities have been moved to be online due to COVID-19. This rang true for our 4th of July event as well. We weren’t able to gather in one place and celebrate it together, so we decided to organize a virtual presentation for high school students about the 4th of July, the traditions surrounding it, and use the opportunity to talk them about the YES program. The YES Alumni presented on what the 4th of July represents and some of its traditions, such as fireworks, barbecues, a weekend spent with family, and special programs put on by cities. In addition, we also discussed about how this year’s celebrations will be different to what they usually are like. 15 high school students attended the presentation. They were very eager to learn more about the YES program, as well as history of the 4th of July and how Americans celebrate it.
YES Abroad alumni Emma Holmes (2019-2020) and Noah Richter (2019-2020), who spent their exchange year in Sarajevo, joined the presentation as well to talk about their families’ traditions. They made a point that 4th of July traditions vary from state to state, as well as from person to person. Noah noted that, for example, in his home state of Arizona, fireworks are not very common because of the dry climate. Emma and Noah said that they are celebrating this year’s holidays with just their family because of COVID-19. After they finished sharing their experiences, we had a short quiz about the history of the U.S. The attendees showed us that they know a lot about the U.S.!
YES Alumni Elma Focic (YES 2019-2020, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ASSE in Belleville, IL) and Dajana Brnada (YES 2019-2020, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by PAX in Olympia, WA) were there as well, and they shared their respective experiences and gave some tips to those thinking about applying for the program. They shared their insights on how to talk to parents about the program, what American high schools are like, and how long it took them to adjust to living in the U.S. The students had a lot of questions about all of the topics that we covered, and we finished the session with a very productive discussion. We even made some parallels between some Bosnian-Herzegovinian holidays and the 4th of July. Overall, it was a successful event and the students learned a lot about the U.S.!