By Sola Olleik (YES 2018–2019, Lebanon, placed with PAX in South Bend, IN)
When I was 15 years old, I carried my hopes and dreams in a suitcase, ready to face the world. Little did I know that this journey would change my life. A year abroad alone in a different country taught me many things. I have grown as a person, and my perspective on life has changed in ways I could never have imagined. My time on the YES program transformed me into an independent and mature citizen of the world. Now I'm back home with many memories, emails to answer, and stories to share. I feel like I have seen America’s true face and heart. I now know more than what the news has told me, and I found my home that is away from home.
Being thousands of miles away from home wasn't easy, but I would not be the person I am today without this experience. I will never forget what my math teacher at my host school told me. He said, “You did an excellent job representing your country and spreading peace and love around our community. Your parents should be so proud, so thank them for me for raising such a passionate young lady.” My math teacher’s words still echo in the back of my mind and affect me deeply. When I first arrived to the United States, I planned to leave behind a lasting impact that would be treasured forever. To meet this goal, I completed more than 100 hours of community service which has made its mark on my host community.
Thanks to this journey, I received a fully-funded scholarship to study at one of the best universities in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. I am forever grateful for this life-changing experience that continues to make an impact on my life.