By: Waad Al Hares (YES 2017 – 2018, Libya, hosted by Ayusa in Forest Grove, OR)
“Why should I apply?” This was just one of plenty of questions roaming around my head as my impatience was replaced with a sense of exhilaration and sheer excitement once I found out that the application for the program I had been watching closely for years was finally out.
In the back of my head I always knew I wanted to be a part of the YES community and to seize a once in a life-time opportunity, an opportunity that I fantasized about when I was a kid. So, I mustered up all the courage and determination I had in me and applied. With every step of the assessment procedure, I felt like I was getting closer to my goal, like I could almost grasp my long-life dream with my bare hands, hopefully but anxiously. Then one day I received my acceptance email as a finalist, and a wave of overwhelming joy washed over me. It was the kind of feeling that you keep on reliving every time your memory takes you back to the cause of it.
A year has passed, and I still find myself speechless every time someone asks me, “How was it?” The YES program experience is something beyond all dictionary words. In this piece of writing I am not going to ramble on about my experience, because every single exchange student has his/her own unique one.
As a proud alumna of the YES program (2017-2018), I am going to give you five reasons why YOU should apply based on my experience and the valuable lessons I learned from YES that you can’t learn anywhere else!
1. Personal Development:
While being abroad on your own, you will encounter a variety of situations where you have to get out of your comfort zone in which you will truly learn more about yourself and your surroundings. I have personally acquired many important traits and skills such as: tolerance, patience, communication skills, addressing problems, confidence, maturity, and adaptation. Coming back home you will realize you’re more willing and eager to take risks as you try to make the most of anything new and different which might open a whole world of opportunities and options for you!
2. New environment and culture:
Let’s keep it real here for a bit. How can you grow and grasp a better understanding of the world when you’re living in the same place you’ve always been living, eating the same food you’ve always been eating, and meeting the same friends and people all the time? While being familiar with your surroundings can be comfortable, there are a lot of things that you can’t learn from the comfort of your home. Immersing yourself in a completely different culture and experiencing life as a local on a day to day basis gives you all you need to know about the culture and the lifestyle. For me, being soaked up in a completely different atmosphere and mingling with locals has made me realize a lot of common misconceptions and stereotypes that I thought were true about American culture but were proven to be completely wrong. Furthermore, it has helped me look at things through a different lens and come to a better understanding of my own culture!
3. Making lifelong friendships:
This has to be my favorite part of exchange year! A lot of amazing friendships will blossom while you’re abroad as you will create friendships with people from different backgrounds, from all over the world. When you come back home you will always feel connected to your friends on the other side of the world knowing that you have people who care for you all around the globe is something magnificent. In addition to that, you will gain many personal relationships that will broaden your network circle which might be useful down the road.
4. Learning the language:
It is true that the YES students are selected based on their English Language proficiency skills ,as well as many other things, but there is always room for improvement. Studying abroad will give you the opportunity to practice and apply your language skills on a daily basis. Also, you will learn more about the education system in a classroom environment. Using English wherever you go, whether at school, shops, or with your host parents, will give you the practical immersion you need to boost your skills further. At the end, not everything is learned in books.
5. You’re still young:
This point pretty much summarizes it all. Many students might find themselves hesitant to apply because they are too worried they will miss out on things back home. But I think the real loss is missing out on this opportunity and letting it slip between your own hands with the excuse that you can’t be away from everything you’re familiar with for ten months. YOU’RE STILL YOUNG! You have your whole life ahead of you to do whatever you want. This is the time in your life when you should be latching on any opportunity that comes your way. This is your time to go out there and discover what’s on the other side of the world to feed your curiosity. You shouldn’t be afraid of change, instead, you should be afraid of being always stuck at the same place. The YES program will give you the push you need to always keep moving forward as it will always be a part of who you are and will always leave you thirsty to embark on more journeys and adventures. Don’t let life pass you by without achieving your dreams and ambitions!
These are only some of the many reasons why being on this program can be beneficial for you personally and professionally. I can assure you that being abroad for a long period of time will help shape you up to a well-rounded person with countless experiences and ideas to apply to your society that will give you a sense of belonging and satisfaction as a permanent ambassador for your country wherever you go!
With everything being said, my only question for you now is HOW COULD YOU NOT APPLY?!