By Hariiharahn P Rajendran (YES 2019-2020, Malaysia, placed with ACIE in Orion, IL)
I arrived to the United States in mid-January and I distinctly remember meeting my host family for the first time. I had just landed in Orion, Illinois after having traveled from New York and Chicago. At this point, I was just jet-lagged and tired. All that changed when I saw this adorable family waiting at the airport with a sign that said, “Welcome Harii to the United States.” All the tiredness just disappeared. I felt so welcomed by my host brothers that all I wanted to do was talk to them all day long.
The first thing we did after I had landed was get some lunch. During this time everyone was still pretty quiet; there was obviously an initial awkwardness, but we got over that in a couple of days and I later grew really close to my family members. But then came my next hurdle—school life.
At first, I felt out of place at school because I was basically joining in the middle of the school year, but then I started making new friends as I went for classes and over time it all felt more normal. I met people who shared the same interests as me and it honestly felt like I was home. It felt almost natural for me to go to school and then stay for baseball practice. I enjoyed every moment of it.
Overall, I had an amazing experience in the U.S. Almost every day I wish I was back in Orion with the friends I had made. Living in the United States gave me the opportunity to lead a whole new lifestyle and try out new things. My exchange is definitely one of the most memorable moments in my life and is something I will forever cherish.