By Myriam Dhouibi (YES 2021–2022, Tunisia, placed by PAX in Carrollton, TX)
When I arrived to the United States, I was filled with motivation, excitement, and hope. I couldn't wait to embark on this long-awaited journey and start a new adventure with my host family and community. As soon as I arrived in Texas and met my host family, I knew that I had an amazing support system and a positive environment in which to shine and learn. Everything felt unfamiliar, which was both scary and exciting at the same time.
My first weeks in the United States were full of new experiences like my first football game, my first Walmart outing, my first movie night with my host family, and my first time at the school cafeteria. I have enjoyed navigating my new environment and meeting people who have already made me feel so accepted.
Another prominent part of my first few weeks has been introducing Americans to my own culture and being an ambassador for my home country, my beautiful Tunisia. I've especially enjoyed spending time introducing others to my culture, telling them random facts, and answering their questions. I have appreciated seeing how my host community is so interested in learning about Tunisia. Seeing people's reactions to the differences between American and Tunisian culture is always priceless. It has also been a great conversation starter and a good way to make new friends.
Another one of the highlights of my exchange year has been participating in theater auditions and getting to be a part of the table reads. Although I've had the pleasure to experience so many great things, my experience has also included culture shock and some doubt. The biggest culture shock has been adjusting to the American school system as there are many opportunities that I wouldn’t have received back in Tunisia. For example, I never thought that I would have the chance to join a jazz band, orchestra, or ceramics class. With that said, the hardest part has been managing my time.
Between meeting new people, spending quality time with my host family, pursuing my passions, and keeping up with schoolwork, it's been challenging to juggle every activity. Additionally, I've had to step out of my comfort zone so many times since I've been here. Whether it's signing up for classes that I find interesting or making new friends, I have never pushed myself so hard. However, I believe it's the best way to grow and live my exchange year to the fullest.