YES Programs



Benefits of a Cultural Study

Alum Stands In Front Of Sign That Reads Greetings From Iowa With Another Young Person

By Mitterand Vanelli Tchamba Djeukeu (YES 2022-2023, Cameroon, placed by IRIS in Hampton, IA)

At first, I was puzzled when I learned I was going to the USA, an incredible country. It was so unbelievable, but when I started my first conversation with my host family and was inside the plane, I understood that it wasn’t a dream and that I was really going to spend the best year of my life in America.

My exchange year was spent mostly in the state of Iowa, where I was placed. It was an incredible journey filled with new experiences, adventures, and lifelong friends. I was initially drawn to Iowa for its beautiful landscapes and renowned universities, but I never could have anticipated just how much this state would come to mean to me. From the moment I arrived, I felt welcomed and included by the friendly people of this state. The people of Iowa are some of the friendliest and most welcoming individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. From my host family to my classmates, I felt embraced and included every step of the way.  

Alum Embraces Two People

My experience in Iowa also allowed me to improve my English skills tremendously. I had always struggled to converse fluently in English before traveling to the U.S., but thanks to the language immersion and endless practice opportunities, I am now able to express myself confidently and without issue. 

My host family made me feel like a part of the family. They took me to see all the best sights Iowa has to offer and shared their customs and traditions with me. One of my favorite memories from my time in the United States was a road trip to Mount Rushmore with my host family. We drove through some of the breathtaking landscapes I've ever seen before. 

What also made my experience memorable was making friends with students from around the world. I met students from India, Italy, Kenya, and many more. We bonded over shared experiences, cultural differences, and our love for learning. As a result, my perspective on the world has shifted and broadened.

Alum Stands On Bridge In Chicago With River Dyed Green

Being an exchange student has been a life-changing experience for me. I felt a mix of emotions coming to a completely different country. I was not sure of what to expect. But from the moment I arrived, the warmth and welcoming spirit of the people in this community made me feel like I had found a new home. I have been blessed with the opportunity to have experienced new cultures and perspectives, make new friendships, and create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.                           

As my year came to an end, I was filled with gratitude, not only for the things and places I’ve seen, but more importantly, for the lessons I’ve learned from this extraordinary journey. Saying goodbye was tough, but I left knowing that the person who leaves is not the same who arrived. For that, I am truly grateful. 

The important thing that I have learned and the advice that I can give is to always take risks in life. And to best describe my experience in one word, I would say, amazing.

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