By Ruby Rajab (YES 2019–2020, Saudi Arabia, placed with YFU in Peoria, IL)
There is a quote from Mark Twain that inspires me to seize every opportunity I can: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It feels like just yesterday that I packed my bags and flew all the way to the United States. I was an exchange student for one year and I grew so much during this time. Fear was my biggest enemy, and whenever there was a “win or lose situation,” I would be too scared to even try. I made a deal with myself to say “yes” to every opportunity while on the YES program, regardless of the doubt in my mind. I wondered if a year abroad could help me develop as a person and use the time for self-improvement. Self-development is a life journey, but saying “yes” to new opportunities takes you halfway to your goals.
Whether it was trying a completely new sport or going on adventures, the YES program is the best decision I’ve made so far. Not only did my exchange year provide me with valuable memories, but it also taught me more about myself. I accomplished so much by taking a leap of faith and saying “yes” to YES! Saying “yes” gave me a sea of opportunities and saying “yes” gave me permission to try and fail, but most importantly to learn. It may be terrifying, but you’ll be surprised at what’s possible. Life is short, so be silly, take risks, be you, and say yes!
I want to say a special thanks to my host mom, dad, brother, sisters, and to all my friends who made my exchange year wonderful and unforgettable!