By Tilyan Aslam (YES 2019-20, Pakistan, hosted by PAX in Indianapolis, IN)
There are some moments in life when you look back and realize how much you've grown and how much things have changed. Looking back to my exchange journey makes me realize my exchange year was definitely one of those transformative years for me which has transformed me into the strongest version of myself. I can't even find a day where I didn't learn something new. Every day was different and full of life lessons. I never knew that I was capable of doing such great things but my exchange journey made me believe in it. It wasn't only a year to enjoy and have fun, but a year where I learned the art of living. I could never be this person I am now without this year. Today, not only people in my host community know and respect me but people from everywhere know me and look up to as an inspiration.
During my exchange, I've met many people through volunteering in different places and socializing with different people everywhere I used to go. I've volunteered in churches, libraries, nursing homes, food banks, participated in different school clubs, and worked with nonprofit organizations for women empowerment. I've made everlasting bonds with the people I've met there and these people have loved me so much every time I've seen them and I've always felt it, but when everyone knew I'm leaving soon for Pakistan, people from different places came to say goodbye to me and started sending my cards and emails. I woke up one morning with a surprise goodbye parade for me and honestly that moment I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have all these loving people in my life. My host family made this goodbye video for me to tell me how special I am to them and I didn't know about it until it was done because Americans love giving surprises and they knew that I would love it. I couldn't stop my tears after watching this. I never knew I've had such an impact on people from all these different places but now I know they all love me and they are just amazing.
I've never felt this special in my whole life like the way people in America have made me feel. Everyone always enjoyed my conservations, my story of how I fought against the odds, and came to the U.S., they loved hearing about Pakistan, and enjoyed my company.
The love I've gotten from people is precious and I'm so grateful for that. They've always made me feel unique and amazing which wasn't usually something I was used to. I'm forever grateful to YES, my host family, my natural family in Pakistan, and everyone who played their part in my journey and helped me flourish. Tilyan loves you all!
I look forward to bringing the same positive impact in my own community just the way I've while I was on my exchange and make a difference in Pakistan.
Watch the surprise vlog made by Tilyan's host family below: