By Saif Azzam (YES 2018 – 2019, West Bank hosted by ACES in Lennox, SD)
The most overwhelming moment of my exchange experience was leaving my host family and what I will always consider to be my second home in South Dakota. In June 2019, I recently returned home after spending a life-changing exchange year with my host family in the United States.
When my host family and I said goodbye, we were hopeful that we would meet again in the near future. Weeks after my return, my host brother decided to come and visit me in the West Bank. I was super excited and happy to hear that my host brother Aiden was coming to visit me. I probably can say that I was just as happy to receive this news, as when I got the call saying that I was accepted to the YES program.
My host brother arrived on July 26th, and I was so excited to see him again. When I went to pick him up, I became even happier to see my host mom with him! It was such a wonderful surprise, as I did not know she was coming with him to visit me. I later discovered that everything was planned by my parents and host mom to come with Aiden as a surprise.
My host family stayed at my home for a few weeks that flew by so fast, it only felt like a few days! We had so much fun touring Palestine, from the city of Bethlehem in the south up to the northern part of the Mediterranean. The part my host family liked the most was getting to know my family and friends in my small village of 5000 people. My host mom loved how relatives and neighbors are so close to each other, while my host brother made many friends here and is already planning on visiting again.
My host mom shared before leaving:
“I’d fallen in love with my second home. Leaving here was hard, this is such a beautiful and peaceful place to be. This is not goodbye - this is a ‘see you later’ as I will be back. We have enjoyed our time with our new very large extended family. They were all wonderful people.”
We all definitely enjoyed it, and it all started, because my host family said “yes” and offered their home to an exchange student.