YES Programs



Appreciating the Memories

Sarah 1

Sarah has had a whirlwind of experiences as a YES student in the US this year. Read about how she felt when she first arrived here, and continue below to hear how her adventure in Arizona turned out!

By Sarah Alasmar (YES 2018-2019, Lebanon, hosted by Ayusa in Glendale, AZ)

Out of 1500 applicants, 28 got accepted. Out of the many organizations, I happened to be placed with AYUSA. Out of 50 states, a volunteering host mother living in Arizona chose me. I could have been accepted the first time I applied to the program, but I happened to apply again and got accepted. Many “what ifs” run through my head, but it always blows my mind because fate pulled me in different directions until I reached the present moment. People always talk about how hard it is to go somewhere and adapt to the new environment. My exchange year wasn’t easy - but what happens next? 

Sarah 3

On the one hand, I am super excited to go back to see my friends, my family, and my country. I have made a list of all the foods I will eat when I go back home. I am going to enjoy the weather and I am going to talk without being afraid of making grammatical mistakes. I am also extremely sad because I know what I am going to leave behind.

Here I am, exactly 50 days before I hug my host family and my friends goodbye searching for the food places I still must try before I leave, and trying to process the idea that the 10 months are almost done. When arriving to Arizona, I knew with certainty that I would go back home. Even though sometimes it seemed like an eternity, time flew by and now I must go back and leave this life I built. Not everyone can relate to the fear I’m feeling. The fear of leaving behind my new life of which my friends and family back home barely know anything about. 

Sarah 2

Sure, they saw the pictures on Facebook, but they don’t know what it was like. They don’t know how I got so used to my name being mispronounced or how many times I mispronounced words. They don’t know how many times I felt sad and lonely, or how many times I appreciated how fortunate I am to have experienced the happiness I felt throughout this year. They don’t know how deep my connection is with my host family and friends. Most of all, they don’t know what I have to leave behind, because what I’m leaving behind is not a country or the people - it is the experience. Leaving after our exchange means it will never be that way again.

I can come back, but I won’t have to wake up to go to school. I can’t text my high school friends anymore to see if they want to hang out with me. Even with my host family, it will be different because I will probably never live with them again. I know this thought is extremely terrifying, it also brings tears to my eyes every time it runs through my head. I would give anything I could to go back to August, no matter how homesick and sad I was at times, I now realize that it was good. It had its charm and I cherish all memories I have made. “I’ll always remember you”, a song by Hannah Montana is what I can most relate to. As cheesy as it may sound, everything happens for a reason, but everything has an end. And we all knew it would come. It is better to appreciate the memories than to be forever sad that it ended.


In May, write a thank you letter to your host family, host community, or favorite teacher! 

Check out this month's story prompt at and submit your story!