By Farhan Aslam (YES 2021-2022, Pakistan, placed by AFS-USA in Jessup, MD)
Somebody once asked me, "what does this exchange year mean to you?".
For a brief moment, I went quiet as I tried to find the right words to put this year into a simple explanation. A difficult task as this year has given me new experiences that are hard to put into words. An exchange year gives you an opportunity to live in a different country, meet new people, speak a different language, experience a new culture, and make connections globally. Most importantly, though, it aids in your personal development.
For me, it was a journey to self discovery. I got to explore parts of my personality that I never knew existed, parts that I preferred to keep covered up. During my exchange year, I faced my insecurities and learned the value of relationships and life itself. I was exposed to experiences that required me to be vulnerable. My experience abroad gave me a chance to grow up and also take some steps back to reflect and heal. It was more like standing in front of a mirror. A mirror that showed me what I am and what I can be.
One of my favorite experiences was being able to act in a play. After three months of living in the U.S., I auditioned for the fall play at my high school called The Curious Savage. I ended up getting the role of one of the main characters in the play! Getting to work with my high school’s theater department taught me many things. It taught me how to present myself, be confident, and work with a team. I also became a part of our school's improv team. Before my exchange year, I never knew that there was an actor and improviser in me, but this year gave me the chance to find that out!
So, in a single line and to answer that question, this year has been a rollercoaster ride full of new experiences and surprises. Now that the end of the ride is here, I am proud and grateful that I got to be on it.