By Raisona Alam Dip (YES 2018-2019, placed by AYUSA in Glimer, TX)
Alumni Instructor. A word that wasn't any less magical than a unicorn to the mind of a 16-year-old Raisona who had just landed in the United States of America and was about to start her own Arrival Orientation. To myself then, being an Arrival Orientation Instructor felt like something out of a fairytale, years after their exchange years, how fun it must be. Of course, being in the States was magical in itself, but my Alumni instructors back in 2018 were no less than magicians themselves. Their stories have inspired me to achieve what I have today and behold, five years after my exchange year, I got the opportunity to create the same magic for scholars after me. In 2023, when I received an email saying I got selected to be the Instructor from Bangladesh this year, it would be an understatement to say I was over the moon. Coming back to the States after five years, only this time with the knowledge and experience of an alumna, and just that but also with the title of an instructor after it. It was a dream come true.
I’ll be honest, my experience as an instructor wasn’t the easiest, we had long days of work and a lot of effort that we had to put in. Keeping teenagers focused is pretty difficult, and managing a whole class is just something else. I not only got to be a mentor to these new exchange students, who are about to embark on a life-changing experience, but I also got to see how I have touched their hearts and they touched mine. They have taught me patience, a lot of it, but they have also taught me kindness and compassion.
So those long days of work were all worth it. At the end of every week when the students would depart for their host communities, it felt like a part of me would be traveling with them. Every time a student would smile and say thank you for sharing my stories with them, I felt like I had made a difference. One of the students even gave me a token of appreciation from his home country, I still carry it around with me. It reminds me of how much each student grows on me and how every one of them left their footprints on my heart. So you see, the magic that I had seen my instructors create in 2018, only my students can tell me if I had done justice to it. But all of them have made my orientation experience more magical as they were little vessels of magic themselves and I for a fact know, that they would be spreading this magic in the parts of the U.S they are in right now.
The Arrival Orientations lasted a full of 4 weeks, and every week brought a new lesson. The different students came into our classrooms as individuals, with different identities, and different nationalities. Dealing with a bunch of teenagers is kind of intimidating, but as a teacher, I learned I had the power to shape all these little talents. Throughout every class, I’ve seen the students grow and as they taught me that no matter how individual each one of them was, they all had one common identity, that of being an exchange student, tying them all together. I was helping them to grow a bond with each other and in the process reliving my exchange year. Every time I would tell them a memory about my exchange year, I would be teleported back to that time, 16-year-old me never thought that the exchange year she was living in would one day become a lesson to so many others.