YES Programs



First Christmas in the U.S.

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By Munazza Haroon (YES 2019-20, Pakistan, hosted by AFS-USA in Steilacoom, WA) 

I’m a Muslim exchange student from Pakistan. As I grew up studying in a catholic school, I always knew about Christmas but never celebrated it. I’m so glad I got to know this holiday and had the opportunity to celebrate it with my amazing host families.This year due to my amazing exchange year I got the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with two families, my old and my new host family. I also got to meet santa. I’ve always seen santa in movies but this time it was for real. I believe Christmas is an occasion where you show how much you care for your family’s wishes and you try your best to make them true. 

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Me in my Christmas PJs.

The santa who came to see me is my host dad’s friend and when I told him that this is my first Christmas he promised me that he will be my santa. I thought he must’ve forgotten his promise but after I came home he surprised me by coming to take pictures with me. I was so overwhelmed to see him that he kept his promise and came to see me. 

My old host family invited me to their house for Christmas Eve dinner which made me feel so special that they still think I’m one of their family members. They had gifts for me which made my day even more special. All the gifts I got are so precious for me. This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had. I believe that Christmas brings all the family together which is similar to my culture as well. I feel so lucky to celebrate it with my family and friends. I’m grateful to the exchange program as well due to which I’m sitting here and having the best experience. Just wanna say that this exchange year is really special for me because I have two families who care for me and even though I’m not living with my old family, they still cherish the time we spent together and they still believe I’m a part of their family. This kind of bond is really precious and special for me. My exchange year has been full of love, support, care, and beautiful families. 


In May, write a thank you letter to your host family, host community, or favorite teacher! 

Check out this month's story prompt at and submit your story!