By Cvetanka P. (YES 2019-2020, North Macedonia, hosted by CIEE in Ringgold, GA)
During my exchange year, I have had great opportunities and amazing experiences. I have made many friends, but mostly, I have become part of an amazing family. The cancellation of nearly all of the plans that my host family and I had for April, maintaining social distance, and staying at home, did not stop us from finding ways to stay busy and have fun every day. We have used this time to get to know each other even better, help our community, and create wonderful memories that will last forever.
Besides doing all my school assignments, my first goal for this month was to achieve my 100 hours of community service. My host mom and I found a way to thank my host dad and all the health care employees who continue to work very hard during this global pandemic. We made over a hundred “thank you” cards, each attached to a bag of baked cookies that my host dad brought to our local hospital in which he works. We also went around our neighborhood area to pick up litter and helped with tornado damage in our town while wearing masks and following all safety precautions.
We have committed the afternoons for doing fun family activities such as watching our favorite movies, playing board games, roasting marshmallows, and making barbecue in our yard. A project that we chose to work on was our back porch, which we painted and decorated so that we can have our own prom. My host mom and sister helped me get ready, I put on my prom dress, we prepared food together, took prom pictures, and danced. We are also planning another party for my birthday at the end of April, for which I’m extremely excited.
Just like Christmas, we had two Easters this year as we celebrate them on different dates in Macedonia. We dyed eggs, shared our traditions, and I showed ours of cracking the eggs in pairs in which a person’s egg wins. I also learned new recipes and songs, as well as heard a lot of fun Easter stories that my host family has and I also shared mine.
I would encourage everyone to try and find things to do while staying safe, trying new skills, spending time doing fun activities with your family, or watching a movie at the same time as your friends. I am thankful and proud to be a YES student, even with this year’s circumstances. I have learned that there are so many new things that you can try and learn, however, the most important thing is that we all take care of each other, so that we can pass the hard times united, and make the best of it.