By Joyce Nimely (YES 2015-16, Liberia, hosted by CIEE in Newcastle, TX)
In 2015, I was selected to be a YES student and study in the U.S. Receiving this mind blowing and overwhelming news had me so excited. I can say I considered myself "blessed" because a lot of students had applied but I was amongst the successful candidates. Finally in 2016, I left for the US and went to Newcastle, Texas to start a whole new chapter. People often say, "if you're the author of your own story, you'll definitely know how the next chapter is going to be”. All I can say is that before I went on the YES program, I was definitely not the author of my own story.
I was welcomed into my new home and school with love and open arms. I lived in a very small town where the people had the biggest and sweetest hearts. But like I said, I wasn't the author of my story so I didn't even know how to go about starting this new chapter in my life. Making new friends for the first time was really challenging for me because I was a shy kid at first and I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone yet. At dinner my host sisters talked about basketball which I found interesting but I had no idea about the rules of basketball. However, I wanted to push myself to try something new so I joined the Ladycats basketball team.
Trust me, I was not very good at all but my coach was very encouraging and had my back. I practiced and practiced and practiced. Gradually, I got better at the game. When I finally learned how to play, my basketball team became not only my friends but family. I was then able to make friends through basketball. I enjoyed the bus rides to games, the lunches or dinners we all had together after our team won. I enjoy playing with my friends. Basketball was one of the best experiences during my exchange year. The fact that girls also got the chance to play this game is one really unique thing about the U.S.
For school work, I enjoyed my Government class a lot. It taught me things I didn't know about the U.S. and other countries as well. The teacher was flexible and made the lessons easier to understand. Spending time with my host parents was also a part of my exchange year that I enjoyed the most. I could share anything with them and I was treated as one of their own. Best part of all for me was going to church which I thoroughly enjoyed. The style of worship in the U.S. was unique. Doing people's laundry for them, loving one another, eating together at church, and worshipping God together was where I always wanted to be. One thing I'm always sharing with my peers back home is how togetherness is important as a team. If more females in my country are involved in basketball, they should always encourage one another and push one another up because Team Work Makes the Dream Work after all!