Since the start of the virtual program in October, Shahed Alsamhan (YES 2020-2021, Jordan, virtually placed with World Link in Clearlake, IA) has embraced YES Virtual program activities with warmth and excitement, building relationships with both Americans and international friends alike.
Always ready to join in a discussion, Shahed loves meeting with the World Link YES and FLEX cluster and especially enjoyed the Christmas party that alumni guides threw for the students. She was excited to see how different countries around the world celebrate the holiday season and said her favorite part was when all the students tried to sing a carol together at the end.
During International Education Week, her favorite part of her presentation to an Iowa high school was the moment when they took a photo “together,” making her feel like she was part of the class. Shahed was also able to present about Islam during a church service at a Mennonite high school. The lead organizer said she was articulate, informative, and enthusiastic about her culture.
For the World Link Kindness Cookies project in December, Shahed baked 70 Middle Eastern cookies called “Grebah” and went door to door, distributing them to her neighbors in Jordan. Even masked, she shared smiles and built a stronger connection with them. From this project, she said she learned that giving is the most important thing in life and that it doesn’t matter what you give, but it’s the act itself that is meaningful.
Shahed has strengthened the World Link virtual program through her active participation in its private Facebook group. Her alumni guide, Hiba, says Shahed is friends with everyone because of her ability to find common interests. Hiba loves having Shahed in her group as she brings a high level of excitement and engagement to the program. She noted Shahed’s ability to quickly build friendships, not only with their group’s American peer and her sister, but also with the rest of the World Link virtual cluster.
The YES student from Jordan enjoys weekend chats with her virtual host family and met her host grandmother as well. Once Shahed’s host mom, Janice, watched her prepare a specialty omelet, and another time the two played chess, with Janice moving the pieces for both of them. After a recent snowstorm, Shahed was excited to see the snow in her host community of Clearlake, IA, and learn about ice fishing. When the family takes her along on car rides, she said she feels as though she is sitting right next to them. In March, Janice is planning a trip to Las Vegas, and Shahed looks forward to accompanying her virtually. She said she is having the best experience possible short of being with the family in person.