By Samira Asiedu (YES 2021-2022, Ghana, placed by Greenheart in Richmond, ME)
Hello, I am Samira from Ghana, and I hope my story will bring a spark to the eyes of exchange students (future or current)!
Unlike many other exchange students, my school is an academy — The Maine Arts Academy. This is a school focused on arts, such as singing, acting, dancing, and many others, but it also offers core classes. My school has an immense passion for art, hence there wasn’t much room for sports. Honestly, in the beginning, I was a little sad because I wanted to participate in basketball. However, I did not let that demoralize me. At my new school, I was required to pick a major. I remember being asked on my first day what my major was and I said Biology and Chemistry. How embarrassing. Now, it's a funny memory. After a while, I took a pause for some self-reflection. I remembered how much I like to sing even though I don’t think I’m good at it, and how much I like to watch movies. I then thought to myself, “why not be the one to try acting?’’
After my first week at my American high school, I loved it! My art classes feel like a break from reality and the scenery at my school makes me feel as though I am in some talent-based American high school movie. For the pep rally, we had students performing in the hallway. It was amazing; their vocals were awesome! Every morning at school, we are welcomed with the beautiful sound of a cello from our biology teacher. At lunch, we are entertained with musical performances by any student who wishes to sing. Every day is simply mesmerizing.
During my second week of school, I was required to perform my first five-minute play with my class partner for my Intro Acting class. After rehearsing the short script for about 30 minutes, it was time to stage it. I was a bit nervous, but I mustered up the courage and did it. By chance, a staff person from the school office saw my performance. After school, on my way to the bus, she called me and informed me that she had nominated me and some other students to participate in an upcoming two-day workshop mainly for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) theater students. I was stunned! When I got home, I found out that she'd also sent an email to my host mom.
My host mom is very busy, but as soon as she found out about the workshop, she planned her schedule around the activity. My mom drove an hour from our home, picked me up from school, and drove me to the workshop, which was another hour from my school. At the workshop, I got the opportunity to meet an actor from the play, Cartography, which tells the stories of young refugees. Through acting exercises and games, we shared our cultural background, history, family, and tribes and how we were all currently in America. It was the best experience ever.
After the workshop, we were presented with tickets to watch the play the following day. I was asked if I wanted to bring anyone with me and I said, “yes, my host family.” I could not believe my eyes when they gave me four tickets. When my host mom picked me up, I told her about my day and the tickets and she was happy for me and agreed to go together as a family.
The next day after school, we all got dressed up, had dinner, and left for the performance. The Merrill Auditorium was huge and beautiful. I had never seen anything like it before. I loved the entire performance and everything that happened within those 48 hours. After the show, I met with the actors and thanked and congratulated them. I also had the opportunity to see the Governor of my state there! On our way home, I was smiling so much that my cheeks hurt. I appreciate my host family, the YES program, and my host school for giving me this experience.