By: Layan Albraik (YES 2018 – 2019, Saudi Arabia, hosted by World Link in Des Moines, IA)
It is not the end of the adventure, it is the beginning. I did not realize that the adventures of my experience of my cultural exchange year started on the first day. I remember my tears that I shed in fear, and saying I wanted to go home, but there was something driving me forward. My passion to explore is what pushed me forward despite the obstacles and challenges. I write here and now that I have finished the year of my cultural exchange in the United States.
My host family encouraged my goals, and made my home life comfortable. I did not neglect family time whenever it was meal time or spending time together. I felt happy when my host family told their relatives or friends that, “our daughter was a successful person.” I was the daughter they were referring to, and it made me like I belonged.
I remember the adventures I shared with my host family. I remember when we spent a day at the airport when our trip was delayed so much until it got cancelled. We laughed a lot and were surprised because there was still time for adventures. Another one of my favorite memories are the Saturdays in Iowa. "Farmers Market" is a Saturday market that has street vendors and stalls that contain all the food, where people start going from 6 am before traffic. Saturday is my favorite day in America.
It's time to end the first chapter of my story to start the second chapter. During my time on the YES program, I learned not to give up despite my difficulties, and to see the positives in life. Being a YES alumna is truly a blessing. I'm thankful for every lesson I’ve learned during my exchange year. I miss my experience filled with the people and memories, because it’s made me who I am. As much as I try, words cannot express how I feel. The ups and downs made the dream of lifetime, and it actually came true. I felt and experienced all kinds of feelings and emotions. From laughs, to a big smile, to a fading smile, to a tear following the other. I have one of the best things that not everyone gets to have - I have a family that is linked from all over the world. I’m glad that I got to live a life in a year.