By Youssef Badawy (YES 2019-2020, Kuwait, placed with CIEE in Nampa, ID)
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. One important thing I learned from my exchange year in the U.S. is that Christmas is about family — not just food and gifts.
One of the highlights of my exchange year was decorating a Christmas tree with my host family. It was also very exciting to pick perfect gifts, hide them, and then witness my host family open them. My host family taught me that although the world changes, the magic of Christmas never does and that every family has their own way of celebrating Christmas. I now understand why my host dad has a rule where no one can watch Christmas movies before Christmas.
I had a lot of fun staying up all night to see Santa and watching my host sister, Julia, prepare the milk and cookies. Julia made Christmas awesome! Seeing how excited she was about Christmas and learning about family holiday traditions made me love and respect Christmas. I also really enjoyed volunteering as I was able to provide other kids with new clothing and help make their Christmas special.
I learned that when it comes to receiving a gift, all that matters is the fact that someone thought of you — not how expensive it is. Christmas is all about making people feel loved! Also, I do not think that there is one person who does not watch “Home Alone” on Christmas. It is just a tradition. Watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music makes the holiday special for me.
My exchange year allowed me to learn how Christmas is a part of American culture. I now wait for Christmas day to arrive like a 10-year-old kid! My host family is very loving, and I wish them a Happy Christmas. Please remind Santa to pay me a visit in Kuwait!
Youssef and his volunteer group