By: Mouhamed Seck (YES 2017 – 2018, Senegal, hosted by AFS in College Park, MD)
I am Mouhamed Seck, exchange student from Senegal. When I first heard of the YES program from my English teacher, I thought: "Oh, OK, I will try, even though English is not even my second language." Then, after four steps of competition and the English application, I ended among thirteen finalists form my country, Senegal. The idea of my story is to explain in my own words that hospitality is the most important part of a welcoming community.
And this is when a new chapter of my life started. I began discovering a country, I only saw on TV, and learning a brand new language that I have to know, in order to survive in that new world. But when I started talking to my host family, who were very excited to have me as part of their family, I realized how wonderful it is to discover a wonderful adventure, the upcoming school year!
Thanks to my host family, I met all kinds of people, have new experiences, participate in new activities and events. For example, during the Thanksgiving season, I realized that HOSPITALITY IS EVERYWHERE! I had a chance to celebrate a new holiday that is about charity and solidarity. I met more family members who brought lots of different dishes for the celebration. And the most important part, is that I got involved and celebrated Thanksgiving together with them.That is one of the most unforgettable moments in my life.
During my International Education Week presentations (photo above), I realized that people are very excited to see what is life like in other communities. And I was happy to see that my teachers and friends enjoyed my presentations and songs called "Khassida". This experience became a big reminder for me, that my culture is my identity and personality, it gives me spiritual, intellectual, and emotional distinction from others, that is why I have to be proud of it.
I will never forget all the presents I received, the places I visited and all the people I met, and all of this is thanks to my host family. During the holidays we celebrate together, for example Muslim Eid (at Washington Islamic Center), I get another view of celebration of that event. Since I came here, I also realize that everyone sometimes needs help. My family always helps me learn from my mistakes, improve my language skills and make sure that I have lots of experiences with different foods. For example, I noticed that one of my favorite foods is Shahi Paneer, which is an Indian vegetarian food! There are plenty of other things that I got to experience since I came here. So, thank you so much to mom, dad, brothers, my placement organization and local coordinator! And, of course, thank you, YES PROGRAM, for making everything possible !
Let us know how your exchange year is going by submitting your YES story!