When Edwin Konneh (YES 2019-20, Liberia, placed with YFU in South Jacksonville, IL) first arrived to the U.S. in August 2019, he had a lot to learn and even more to look forward to as a YES student. At first, Edwin, who is Deaf, said he didn't understand all the new vocabulary and wasn't confident with some of the differences in American Sign Language. However, with the help of his host family he improved his signing and grew in confidence. By the time he began school at the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) he felt more self-assured thanks to his American host family, and he continued to learn and grow with the help and support of his peers at ISD.
Edwin said that something that really surprised him in the U.S. was all the Deaf adult professionals in the work force. Both of his host parents, who are also Deaf, have full time jobs. This has made a lasting impression on Edwin, and inspired him to raise awareness back home in Liberia.
Edwin explains that in the U.S., he learned that Deaf people have rights, and that no one should be able to take advantage of him just because he was born Deaf. As a newly minted YES alumnus, Edwin wants to contribute to the progress and acceptance of Deaf and hard of hearing people in Liberia by ensuring that Deaf people know about their rights and have access to future opportunities.
You can learn more about Edwin and his experience as a Deaf exchange student living in the U.S. in the video below!