By Marija Andreevska ( YES 2017-2018, Macedonia, hosted by AFS in Phoenix, AZ)
Without sounding too much like the stereotypical millennial, I will start this article off by saying that we are all unique in some way, which is simply a biological fact. Here in this community and on this website, what connects us all, no matter what race, gender, sexuality, height, weight, age, interest, hobby, favorite TV show, grades, profession, or phone we have, is the YES program. It’s pretty great knowing that there are thousands of people you can just mention the program to, and you automatically have some sort of a bond. However, one of the things that’s always made me sad is how many people, especially eligible students, don’t know about it. Even more so, how many people misunderstand the program and its impact, just staring at me in an odd manner whenever I tell them about it, as if it’s some sort of an unattainable fantasy. The only reasonable line of thought, as any YES alumnus probably knows, is to do a project about it.
So in this attempt to create a fun and interesting but also educational event, I organized the Human Library. As the name suggests, it follows the concept that every person is like a book, possessing unique experiences and knowledge. There was a total of 16 speakers divided into eight groups. Each group, representing one field or topic, had their own space and panel so that every guest had an opportunity to visit whichever panel they liked and chat a bit with all our speakers. There was a sign on every table, indicating the specified field of expertise, so that guests might walk around our maze of panels and see what they were interested in knowing more about.
I wanted to diversify the event and make it so that anyone would have something they could relate to. The fields were the following:
- International Relations (represented by Special Adviser to the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Macedonia Emir Hasanovic, YES 2009-2010, hosted by PAX in Lyle, MN)
- Medicine/Health (represented by resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery Blagoja Srbov, YES 2010-2011, hosted by PAX in Kennewick, WA)
- Gender Equality (represented by Junior Project Officer at the Network of Associations of Local Authorities in South East Europe Semra Ameti, YES 2010-2011, hosted by PAX in Powell, OH)
- Entrepreneurship: Fashion (represented by co-founder of the fashion line MOSSO.mk Simona Ristovska, YES 2009-2010, hosted by World Link in Washington, IA)
- Student Organizations (represented by President of the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience Oliver Cvetkovski, YES 2015-2016, hosted by FLAG in Bluffton, IN)
- Going on Exchange/the U.S. (represented by the local YES Abroad students)
- Workers’ Rights (represented by the Macedonian Occupational Safety Organization)
- Music (represented by a popular local band, Funk Shui)
As you can see, the majority of our panelists were our wonderful YES alumni. They not only represented their respective fields, but also the program and how it has helped them grow into the people they are today. Although the ideal audience was potential applicants, it was an event that welcomed everyone. More than 100 guests attended and had the opportunity to learn from the panelists’ stories and knowledge and to ask curious questions.
I was especially honored by the attendance of Mr. Lorne Craner, president of American Councils for International Education. He, as all other guests, really enjoyed this fun, small event and was left with great impressions. I was very proud.
To conclude, I will say that it is the little things that matter. Not only in cliché romantic movies, but also in real life with a movement such as ours. I say a movement because we are, in fact, actively changing the world. One student at a time, one project at a time, one mid-long article at a time. My first project, the Human Library, inspired me to continue working on similar things things which make me happy. I want to share as much of my experience and this awesome program as possible, because it truly has changed my life and I hope it does so for many others. Be on the lookout for another article from me very soon!