YES Programs



HER Exchange Story

Alumna Posing At The Beach For The First Time

By Sidra Shakir (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by ACES in EL Dorado Hills, CA)

It is just so weird to think that she was home, but still she had to leave for home. It doesn’t make any sense, right? 

Yeah, it’s over. TODAY is the day. The day she wasn't looking forward to. Everyone calls it, “THE LAST DAY,” but she calls it, “THE BEGINNING.” Indeed, every beginning has an ending, and every ending has a new beginning, and so does her story.

Let's start from the very beginning, shall we?

It was the first day in a place where Sidra had dreamt to be: California. Waiting at the airport to be picked up by someone that she had never met was the best feeling she'd ever had. It took guts to act cool. On the day she arrived, she saw her new neighborhood, including her house and new school, which she began attendeding the next day.

The first and last days are always the weirdest days of every story. It's actually the time where no one knows what to do to make the most out of it, as it was for Sidra. Slowly she started to memorize the ‘other’ ways to do things than what she was used to. She feels lucky to have lived with her dream family (yes, those strangers are her family now). She went to one of the coolest schools, where she took her favorite class, art, and joined clubs like Key Club, Interact Club, and Hands4Hope Club. She met new people and tried to make new friends, but it was hard for her to understand the jokes. Everyone would laugh except for her, as she needed another minute to translate, and then she would laugh. After all, English was not her first language. 

Alumna Posing With Hm At Airpot On First Day

Slowly but steadily, she grew and matured. She tried out for the best soccer team in her school, but couldn’t get on the team. A little disappointed, she came home to her supportive host family, who wanted to help her and not make her feel bad about what happened. Her older brother ordered her favorite chocolates to brighten her mood, and it was the best time to grow close to this family and to build an unbreakable trust and love.

She experienced so many different and new things, like going horseback riding for the first time, trying out the delicious desserts that she had never heard of before, playing a million different games, ice skating, bowling, roller skating, and go karting. She also attended her host sister’s wedding, which she thought was the best experience ever, and visited art museums, with a Van Gogh exhibit definitely being her favorite one. 

She explored nature by visiting Yosemite National Park and the beautiful beaches of California, and she experienced and learned about the importance of volunteering with other students. She took Apollo (the family dog) for walks, and she liked to give some time to Shuri (the family cat). She also liked to spend time with her aunt (her host mom) and her two host siblings, named Haroon and Hamza. Indeed, these two boys made her year the best, and are the crème de la crème of her experience.

Alumna Posing With Hf At A National Park

Then suddenly school ended. She was looking for a reason as to why it ended so fast, but could only find one: that it was the end of the school year, which meant the end of her exchange experience. Not believing it, she tried not to think about “the end,” but it was. With eyes full of tears, a heart full of confusion, and a distracted brain, she really didn't know what to feel. Was she happy that she would see her family, or sad that she was leaving her family? She figured it out once she understood that this family is forever now, and although it was the last day of her experience, it was not her last day in America.

Isn’t that weird to leave a family for a family? Well, yes it is. After all, it's my story. 

This might be the end of my exchange experiences, but it is also the beginning of a new chapter of my life. The previous chapter will help me to narrate my upcoming chapters, and I believe it will be a wonderful experience ahead.

Thank you, exchange year, for making me this person, and thank you to all those amazing people who have made my experience the best. Thank you all.