By Mohamed El Ghamry (YES 2019–2020, Morocco, placed with AFS-USA in Chicago, IL)
The YES program has opened many doors for me, and I had many adventures in a very short period. The YES program taught me to set better goals, grow as an individual, be more responsible, and to never give up. I learned that through consistent effort, branching out of our comfort zone, and empathy, we can grow as a community. My year in Chicago allowed me to bridge cultural differences, increase my cultural awareness, and grow as a better leader for my community.
As an exchange student, I received stereotypical comments from others about my country or religion. Instead of getting upset, I realized that these comments come from a lack of exposure to my culture and often false media coverage. This ability to see things from their perspective allowed me to hold conversations where we both broke stereotypes about our countries and we laughed at how misinformed we can be at times. We found out that we have much more in common than we thought!
After returning from the United States to Morocco as an alumnus of the YES program, I wanted to share the lessons I learned with others — because I believe that a lesson learned should be a lesson shared. I had the pleasure of being invited as one of the speakers for LED (Leadership Education) Morocco, an NGO that was created by the Moroccan Future Leaders Program in association with the US Embassy and Anoual association. This organization aims to promote leadership culture and develop the leadership skills for both rural and urban high school students to create positive change for Moroccan society.
The invitation was an opportunity for me to share my YES program experience with high school students, and talk about the importance of leadership skills in our community. I talked about the different ways we can strengthen our empathy skills and how to develop a growth mindset where you start believing that our talents can be improved through consistent effort and learning from our mistakes. There is always room for improvement, no matter our age. Through sharing our lessons with others, we can guide each other and our community to a better future.
Let's help each other! Every person is significant and can contribute to making changes. We learn from our failures as well as our successes. We learn from our own experiences as well as the experiences of others. I will keep learning through my journey to self-development and find opportunities to share what I learn with others. Too often we underestimate the power our ideas, our words, and our actions have without truly thinking that they make a huge difference. It’s all the little things that we do that often set off a chain reaction that becomes so much bigger than ourselves!