YES Programs



Diving into the Unknown: My Memorable Time Abroad

Noor and a friend kayaking

By Noor Fatima (YES 2023-2024, Pakistan, placed by Aspect in Olympia, WA)

Six months in, with only four more to go, and all of this will just be a dream. Those familiar pine trees, the yellow school buses, my twirls in the school hallways filled with joy, the rain, the cold, the free Halloween candy –in a matter of days it will all be gone. The day I leave this country, all of these experiences will become memories—unforgettable ones.

I'd never seen the ocean before, and what I'll miss the most about Olympia is exactly that – the soft waves, the sunlight hitting the water, the sound of the waves, the salty wind, and the salty taste in the air. Oh, and those mesmerizing sunsets. This exchange year isn't just about cultural exchange; it's also about love and the unbreakable bonds you make in a year.

Noor with her host family

Back home in Pakistan I do not have a sister, but I found one here. I have a sister, just like I always wished. We baked together, watched movies together, and went shopping together.

My initial encounter with water remains one of the most exciting moments in my life. I vividly recall the day I cautiously entered the water with a life jacket, despite lacking swimming skills. However, my host sister was by my side, offering reassurance and calming my nerves. This transformed my experience into the most cherished memory of my exchange year.

Noor and a group standing in front of a mountain

Exchange years not only impact you; but the people around you too, helping you grow as a person. I have done 86 hours of community service, something not very common in Pakistan, and connected with amazing people. Volunteering at a food bank, where a single smile can brighten your day as you assist the needy, and participating in a community farm—feeding chickens, harvesting seasonal food, and engaging in fundraisers—have been great experiences. I've also volunteered at places like an elementary school, a community center, and a non-political peace and justice organization. It's been so great to know that you are serving the community and paying back to your community.