YES Programs



Growing Moments of Life

Rida at the airport standing next to her host mother and host sisters.

By Rida Waheed (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by ACES in Oroville, CA)

Rida and her host family standing together in a forest.

Some moments in life are memorable and I’ve had a lot of these moments on the YES program. In September I went kayaking for the first time with my host family. Over the weekend, we went to two lakes in Quincy, California. I loved the kayaking experience and would do it again. With a church group, I went to Six Flags and I went on a roller coaster for the first time. There were so many crazy roller coasters that were scary but I still had the best day ever. This year was my first time celebrating Halloween and I absolutely loved it. My host sister, who is eight, was a peacock and I dressed up as a skeleton. We went trick or treating in my neighborhood. I loved the concept of giving candy to children, dressing up, and having fun. 

YES student standing next to host sister dressed up as a skeleton on Halloween.

I educated my host family about how to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14th. I gave them “shalwar kameez,” which is traditional clothing from Pakistan. The shalwar are loose pajama-like trousers and kameez is a long shirt. My host family loved the outfits that I gave them.

I even experienced my first American football game and I understood the thrill behind this sport, which keeps the students energized, cheering for the team. I learned how the sport actually works and that it really is more than just teenagers locked up in their armor wrestling for a ball. 

YES student wearing traditional Pakistani clothes.

I have learned that everything comes with ups and downs but as long as you are mindful and have a positive attitude, you can get through any struggle. Even when I’m facing a challenge, I tell myself that I got this.

I never thought that being an exchange student could be this amazing, from having a great host family to meeting new people every second. I appreciate the YES program and my host community for standing by me throughout my experience here in the U.S. I am thankful for this amazing opportunity that allows students from around the world to grow and share their culture with others. I am constantly learning and growing as a person without even realizing. I will cherish these moments forever.