Two current YES students and an alumna from Bangladesh share their YES experience and offer advice to their fellow YES students on how to make the most of their exchange year.
When I Said YES to KL-YES
By Marian Gomes (YES 2019-2020, Bangladesh, hosted by CIEE in Ooltewah, TN)
I still can feel those vibrant happy emotions and I remember how proud my dad was with tears of joy in his eyes when I was selected as a YES Finalist. I was delighted to make my parents’ dream come true. Days passed but to me, nothing seemed to have changed. It was 26th August when I walk passed immigration, excited about the journey ahead. I never thought about how important my family was to me until I met my host mom at the airport. I felt this emptiness in D.C. during orientation like something was missing and there was love that I was craving. All my emptiness was filled up when I saw my host mom standing there, holding a bunch of sunflowers, smiling at me. Despite the horrible exhaustion taking over me and my feet unable to walk any further, I ran into her arms. It felt like 'My mom, she's here'. Being away from family is not always a bad thing but I would say that you should do it to realize your heavenly parents' absence and how precious they are when they are with you.
I won't lie. It’s hard to get along with everyone and everything in the first few weeks. It’s hard, we make mistakes. I remember missing my bus and how grateful I was to my host mom for driving me to school even though she was getting late for work. When you feel like things are getting harder, that's when you start learning. I started asking questions, appreciating the people who were helping me and always smiled no matter how sleepy I was. I did get something in return: respect and motivation to go on. Also, I got something which I never thought would ever happen: I got addressed as my host mom’s daughter instead of just an exchange student. I stood still with gratitude when my host mom was talking to a cashier about how happy she was to have me as her daughter. That day was the best day of my life.
How can I can ever repay the YES program for giving me this opportunity to come across all these amazing teachers, students, friends, and most importantly, teaching me how to appreciate the presence of others, to live freely, and to love unconditionally.
Advice for My Fellow YES Scholars
By Sejan Jahan (YES 2019-2020, Bangladesh, hosted by AYUSA in Macon, GA)
I have been in Georgia for three months and I have seen so much already. It's so easy to expect the same things you might have heard from your alumni mentors before coming but it’s important to remember that everyone experiences different things. I didn't know how I was going to adjust here. The people, the accent, the weather, the food, and the attires, everything is different.
I had been insecure about my body even before I came here. After coming here it changed to another level. I couldn't wear my traditional clothes that I wore back home. Wearing jeans or shorts outside was weird in the beginning. As time went by, I realized that all the insecurities and thoughts about my attitude or look are only in my own mind.
I just want to tell every YES student who might still be adjusting or might not have things go as perfectly as expected that it is all part of the journey and that it’s going to be okay.
Watching other students having fun while you're still figuring things out is okay. You're not missing out. Sometimes the milestone of this scholarship year can be even the smallest things that will stay in your heart forever. I missed my homecoming dance for a cookout with my mother. Trust me, missing out is okay. Don't feel bad when you see someone experiencing something that you cannot. Everyone will have a different time and that’s what makes their YES experience unique and worthwhile.
Message to New YESers
By Raisona Alam (YES 2018-2019, Bangladesh, hosted by AYUSA in Gilmer, TX)
Hey, 2019-2020 YESsers! You all are in for a treat! This year will be a year full of learning for each and every one of you. You will find yourselves in places you never thought was possible and you will discover a new 'you'.
This year will be a time of growth for all of you and just as a tree passes through storms but still grows, you will too. There will come times where you don't feel so good and it is completely fine as I had those times too! After a few months of my arrival, I felt as if everything was falling apart, but I relied on my loving friends, and my amazing host family who helped me through that rough time.
When you feel low, talk to people and don't isolate yourself. This is something that really helped me. I shared how I was feeling with people around me and they did their best to comfort me which made me feel much better. Making friends might feel difficult at first, and you might feel like some people may not even remember you, but the impact you have on them is worth it. Not everyone needs to remember you, even if only one person does, that's a lot!
And as everyone says, always say YES! I took classes and tried out sports that I wouldn't normally have done, and those experiences were amazing! I applied to various workshops throughout the year and met people from all over the world and I feel so fortunate to call them my friends. I overcame many of my fears during my exchange year. The fear of travelling alone and even the fear of water! I still can't swim but I'm not afraid to float using a life jacket anymore.
No matter what happens, you deserve this year, this experience, and everything that comes with it! You worked so hard and were chosen to represent your country among your host community. And you should be really proud of doing so!