This article was originally published in the Waverly Democrat
Monday, July 5, 2010 10:05 AM CDT
Nura Mohammed, Omar Omar and Sylver Iyam, high school international exchange students from Africa, recently returned home to finish their high school educations in Nigeria and Tanzania.
These students, along with 57 others from Nigeria and Tanzania, spent the past 10 months living and studying in the Midwest through Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS) and the U.S. Department of State’s Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.
During the seven-year collaboration, IRIS has worked to provide scholarships and exchange opportunities for 235 students from East and West Africa.
Nura, Omar and Sylver spent the year at Waverly-Shell Rock High School. Before leaving, they each wrote a letter to the community explaining their experience.
I have learned many American experiences. Some of them have utterly changed my life for the better. America is great nation with great people.
I was lucky to visit two American cities: Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
When I first came to America, I was welcomed in such a way that I felt so comfortable – like I was with my own family back home. I used to live with a single man for the first part of my stay. He was very nice and curious, and he always tried to make me happy and feel comfortable. My first day in American high school, I attended Starmont, a school with about 400 students. I met new friends, especially when I joined cross-country. I got more friends that are curious and eager to learn something from me especially about Africa. Almost everyone knew me within two weeks of school.
I moved to a different family in a different town called Waverly, and I had to change schools, so I met more new friends. As I continued with cross-country in the new school, I also got more friends on the team.
Food was one of the challenges I faced here in America. Im used to rice, beans, yam and homemade food that is always cooked with seasoning. I had to adjust to food with different tastes than what I was used to.
Weather is the next challenge. It is very lucky and amazing to witness snow for the first time in my whole life, but it turned too cold, and that made me dislike it because I’m not used to it.
The American school system is very standardized, and I wish my country had this kind of sound education system for people in Nigeria. We have the resources and economy to establish good education, but we lack good leadership to execute that kind of system. With the experience of knowing the value of education, people and community, I will now try to contribute towards the success of my community at all costs.
As soon as cross-country season ended, I joined the basketball team, where I also got chance to interact with many more people. The same thing happened when I joined track.
I’m really enjoying my community service because it influences me to know the value of contribution towards the community.
One of my best experiences is computer literacy. I didnt know anything about computers when I came to America, but now I have learned lots about computer systems, and I think I’m ready to teach some basic computer literacy to people back home. Other experiences include visiting the Mall of America, a horse sale barn, American prom and church. I went to an AC/DC concert in Des Moines with my host family.
Coming to America was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. I learned a lot about life in a totally different culture. When I go back to Nigeria, I will have many memories that will stay with me as long as I live.
One of the main things that I have learned on this trip is that American people are so nice and always make me feel welcome and tried to become friends with me. I will never forget this trip as long as I live.
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