By Naïma Mohamadou (YES 2019-20, Cameroon, hosted by ACES in Toledo, OH)
I have been in the U.S. for one month now and I will never forget the incredible experience I have already had. When I arrived in the U.S., we had three days of Orientation in Washington, D.C. through which I got to meet so many people from different countries. It was so exciting to meet new people, see so many great buildings, and make new friends from all over the world. I had so much fun and really enjoyed those few days I got to have with the rest of the exchange students and orientation staff.
After the orientation, it was time for me to meet my host family. They are very caring and kind and have helped me feel right at home. I went to a new restaurant and to the movies with my host family. I tried American food and ice cream here which were so different from the food at home. I started school three weeks ago and the students and staff at my school are so friendly and supportive. I also got to meet other exchange students from my school, share about my experience so far, and learn about their exchange experiences.
One thing that has really helped me connect with my host community is doing different types of community service. During my first week, I went to do some community service at a funeral which was a new experience for me. Last weekend, I went to serve food to kids at a football match. I met some kids who came to me and said, “Can we know your name? Where are you from?” and so many other questions about my culture. They also asked me to play some music from my country so they could learn some traditional dances! I really appreciated the time I had with them and their curiosity about my country and culture. I also went to a baseball game with my friend and at the end, there were fireworks which were so beautiful. I also went to Cleveland, OH with my host family which was a really great trip. A few days ago, I participated in another community service project with the other exchange students and some students from my school which was so fun. My goal is to do as much community service as possible before my exchange year ends!
My advice to other exchange students is to make everyday a great day! Enjoy the time you have here to the fullest. Have fun, make friends, and also help those around you. This year is going to be a great year for us if we take initiative and make things happen so don’t be afraid to take the first step!