YES Programs



Adjustment and Connection During My Exchange

Idriss in green graduation regalia with host parents

By: Idriss Guerziz (YES 2021-2022, Tunisia, placed by CIEE in Indianapolis, IN)

As I embarked on my exchange year, the initial euphoria gradually gave way to unforeseen challenges and moments of self-discovery. One pivotal encounter occurred with my host mom about my religious beliefs or lack thereof.

I waited for a month before I revealed to my host mom that I don’t practice any religion. This reveal triggered a series of incidents that strained our relationship, even reaching the point where I contemplated seeking a new host family. Feeling perplexed and disheartened, I sought solace in a fellow alum. They astutely observed that I hadn't effectively communicated why these incidents troubled me to my host family. Their insight served as a poignant wake-up call—I had been venting and debating but had failed to express my feelings or comprehend theirs.

Idriss and host mom with alligator statue dressed as Santa

I mustered the courage to initiate a conversation with my host family. We delved into each incident, unraveling shared feelings of confusion and hurt. Through sincere apologies and honest explanations, we began to bridge the emotional chasm between us. In the days that followed, I prioritized connecting individually with each family member, acknowledging my missteps, and expressing empathy for their perspectives. Each day brought us closer together. Gradually, I began to experience a sense of belonging within my host family.

Through vulnerability and understanding, I nurtured connections and fostered relationships across geographic boundaries. This lesson underscored the importance of empathy and patience. In retrospect, those tumultuous weeks refined my ability to navigate cultural differences, have difficult conversations, and forge deeper connections. I carry with me the lessons learned from this transformative approach, which shape my approach to communication and relationship-building to this day.