YES Programs



Finding Home Abroad: My Journey with the YES Program

Myriline with her Host Family.

By Myriline Dogba (YES 2019-2020, Liberia, placed by World Link in Dinuba, CA)

A famous poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, once said, “All good things must come to an end,” but I have refused to believe that. Things like relationships and friendships are never-ending for me. I say this because the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES) taught me the value of holding on to the people who come into our lives and leave smiles on our faces.

I am Myriline Dogba, a 21-year-old young and proud Liberian leader. Five years ago, I was just an ordinary teenage girl in secondary school. Though I had dreams, I never saw the possibility of living those dreams at a younger age.

Halfway through my 10th-grade year at William V. S. Tubman Gray United Methodist School in Gbarnga, Bong County, they came: the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES). Being one of the blessed students in the class, I was selected, along with a few others, to take the IELTS test. My principal, Rev. Dr. Anna Kaydor Labala, who was also my guardian by then, encouraged us to do our best on the test to prepare for an incredible journey. The results came in and were good; then, I became a semifinalist with two classmates, who later became my best friends. My parents were proud of me and gave me all the support I needed to continue my application process.

Growing up, I always thought about traveling to the United States, but what I did not think about was that I could travel in my teenage years; it was shockingly exciting. A few months after writing several tests and sitting through interviews, my American experience began in August 2019.

Pixture of Myriline Dogba.

I was placed in Dinuba, California, with a Mexican American family. My host family, Jorge Camarena, Margarita Camarena, and Maya Camarena, gave me memories to last a lifetime. Adapting was hard at first, but with my family being super nice and supportive, I settled in pretty well with time. All my life, I had never lived with a sister, but in Dinuba, I had to learn to live with a little sister. I was worried and thought it would be difficult to bond, but surprisingly, she was excited that I was there, and that was the best feeling ever.

Starting at a new school was different and challenging for me. I struggled with using the computers at first and also had difficulty understanding some of my teachers, but I eventually found my way. One of the things I loved about Dinuba High School was that they gave international students several opportunities to share their culture. It truly was during my exchange year that I discovered myself. At first, my parents said I should become a neuron surgeon, and I agreed with them, but later, I realized that I had a passion for Engineering. In the United States, I took Architecture and Design class, and I enjoyed every minute of that class. I could see myself in the construction field. My love for math and design got deeper; right then, I knew I wanted to become a Civil Engineer, not a doctor.Furthermore, my exchange year was when I found out that I was an athlete. I played basketball during the winter and earned a certificate. This was a big deal because I never believed I could be good at sports.

Myriline with Host School Students.

I like to talk about my host mom because she is one of the best mothers I have met. Marga Mama, as I call her sometimes, is a strong, beautiful, and caring woman; she makes plans for everything and sticks to those plans no matter what happens. She taught me how to use my time wisely in order to progress in life. On Saturdays, she would have me signed up as a volunteer in Dinuba or in other cities that were closer to us. She would make me sing my tribal songs at different events in and outside of Dinuba. She wanted me to have a blast experience and return home with honor and fun memories, which I did.

Another person who contributed to my successful experience was my local coordinator, Michelle Pattillo. I remember my first day at Dinuba High School; I got lost on campus, but with Michelle’s help, I found my way back home safely. Michelle did not only serve as my coordinator. She was always checking in with me and seeing that I was happy. Through her, I visited one of the best places in the world, Disneyland. Even now, she is still supportive, even though we are miles apart.

The YES program has given me a family that I will never forget, memories that make me want to work harder and make a long-lasting impact in my country. This program changed my life, and for that, I am forever thankful to iEARN for recruiting me into this wonderful family. Years will keep passing by, but one thing I know for sure is that my host family has become members of my extended family.

We may think that everything good always ends, but we forget that we can keep it going or let it end. So, if you ask me, my good memories, bad memories, good days, and bad days, they are all part of my life. I am holding on to the people who have, one way or another, brought laughter into my life, and that includes the YES program.