YES students have a lot of new adventures, including joining clubs and serving their host communities. For Hiba Ouzaouit (YES 2017 – 2018, Morocco, hosted by World Link in Grimes, IA), just a couple months in to her YES experience, there are two such adventures that already stick out as really meaningful: Reggie’s Sleep Out and high school band.
Hiba writes about her special experiences with the band:
“When I came to Iowa and started talking with my host family about school, they immediately recommended that I join Marching Band. At first, I was not so sure. The fact that I have never learned music scared me. I also thought that they might not like me since I am different. I thought that they may blame me and say I ruined their band because I always play out of tune. But I was wrong.
“Joining Marching Band at my host school is not just the best decision I have made while in the United States, but in my whole life. It allowed me to make hundreds of friends and helped me realize my childhood dream to learn how to read music. It is amazing how you can love something that much in a short amount of time.
“I will never forget Senior night, when every senior walks with his parents on the field and the other students applaud for him. When they said 'the foreign exchange student Hiba from Morocco' all the marching band members were screaming and applauding like never before. They were shouting that they love me and that I am the best exchange student. It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I knew that day that yes, my exchange year is going to be a success!!”
And she isn't stopping there. With a solid foundation of friends from band, Hiba is branching out to serve the community as well. Here’s what Hiba has to say about volunteering to end homelessness:
“Since I very young, whenever winter comes, I can’t stop thinking about these people who do not have somewhere to call home, whose bed is the ground, or if lucky a box, and whose blanket is a sky full of stars. I have always wondered how they survive in this tough world without having somewhere to get protected from rain and snow. I couldn’t understand because, thank God, I do have a home and a family.
“I always wished I could make a little difference to improve at least one person’s life. And thanks to the YES program, the U.S. Department of State, and World Link, I had the opportunity to participate in the Reggie's Sleep Out that was Saturday October 21st, 2017. Volunteers raise money for homeless people and sleep outside in the stadium of Drake University. All the money goes to Iowa Homeless Youth Center, and they work on ending homelessness in Iowa.
“My dream came true: with willingness, hard work, and motivation I fundraised $800 for Reggie’s Sleep Out. I went door by door in the neighborhood, told people about my goal, and they helped me a lot. Whenever we had family or friends at home, I told them about Reggie's and they were so helpful.
“I was determined to fundraise a good amount of money, not just to help homeless people but, to be very honest, for myself too. I needed to know that I can make the difference and that I am going to be a good leader.
“Unfortunately, because of the weather, the Reggie’s Sleep Out was canceled, but it didn’t cancel the pride and satisfaction I feel thanks to what I realized. It is absolutely something I will be proud of my whole life. I promised myself to not stop here, but to make sure I'll make a difference when I will go back to Morocco. If I am able to serve a country that hosts me for a year, I must also serve the country that hosted me every year and gave me everything.”
Like other YES students, Hiba shows that there are many ways to make the year in the US a success – and many dreams to be realized!