YES Programs



From Challenge to Champion

Iva Stand With Club Members Holding Trophies

By Iva Petrova (YES 2022-2023, Bulgaria, placed by AFS in Platte City, MO)

I'm from a small town in Bulgaria, so I was excited when I received my placement report stating that I was placed in the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. Platte City quickly became my second home because of the caring community, my loving host family, and those who welcomed me with open arms in the clubs I joined.  

During my exchange year, I achieved many goals through the extracurriculars I participated in. Before participating in YES, I participated in Speech and Debate tournaments in my home country for three years. While deciding which clubs and extracurriculars to join during my exchange, the Speech and Debate and drama club were the most appealing, so I joined both, even though I had no experience in theatre. 

During Speech and Debate in Bulgaria, I only participated in the interpretative events of Poetry and Prose. Therefore, when I chose which events to do in my American journey through Speech and Debate, I was mesmerized to see more than 15 competitive events. I participated in Prose Reading, Poetry reading (and got 1st and three 6th places), Dramatic Interpretation (getting 3rd place, Second Team All-Conference, and two 5th places), and Humorous Interpretation (5th place) in a total 13 tournaments. I also helped with the ballot return table when my school hosted a tournament and volunteered as a timekeeper during the State Tournament. 

Iva Holds Her Trophy While Sporting The Bulgarian Flag

On the other hand, before joining the Theatre department in my American high school, I didn’t have experience with acting. I was excited to try something new, even though I’ve had stage fright ever since I was a child.

At first, I was excited to go to auditions, but while I was waiting for my turn to go in I was stressed and thought about running away. Instead, I went to callbacks, recieved a role, and acted on stage for the first time. At the time, I didn’t know one could get awards from theatre, but later on, the ensemble I was in was nominated for Best Ensemble in a Play. We even recieved medals for the nomination! It was thrilling and surreal to be on stage for the first time and get nominated for an award! 

After a successful exchange year in the United States, I am ready to use the voice and the confidence I found to draw attention to important issues in Bulgaria. As an exchange student, I learned to say yes to new experiences and challenges, and I can't wait to use all I've learned to make a difference.