By: Louts Al-Habahbeh (YES 2022-2023, Jordan, placed by AFS-USA in Midland Park, NJ)
On February 25, I left New Jersey to go to Washington D.C. and participate in Civic Education Week (CEW). I was excited when I departed, but I didn’t know that it would be the best week of my life. Civic Education Week is a one-week program for YES, FLEX, and CBYX students who are currently in the U.S. To apply for the program, we wrote an essay about a problem in our home countries and how participating in CEW will help us solve these issues when we return home.
During the week, we had workshops on topics such as disability rights, leadership, social media literacy, grassroots advocacy, peacebuilding, and public speaking. The grassroots advocacy workshop taught me that if we want to change something in the world, we should start with ourselves first. After that, we can spread it around our communities, countries, and even the world. But it’s always about making small steps and changes first!
During CEW, we visited many museums and historical sites to learn about American history and culture. We visited the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials, the National Museum of African American History, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Natural History. With the help of our lovely instructor Crystal Jackson, I learned so much about the history of the United States.
One of my favorite days was Capitol Hill day. I had two meetings with the staff of New Jersey’s senators and representatives. I asked questions that helped me learn more about the American government and New Jersey. After our meetings, my friend and I went on a tour of Capitol Hill. We were so impressed with the architecture of the building, both inside and outside. We also visited the Library of Congress and many other buildings in the area.
Another highlight was meeting with the U.S. Department of State officials. We met Nicole Elkon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, and our regional officials. We asked them many questions about the program, our countries, and our host states.
CEW was a great opportunity to meet talented people from all over the world. I learned about different cultures and countries that I had never heard about before. Even though it was only one week, I made friends for life! We all learned from this experience how to be independent, social, and positive. I’m so happy that I represented Jordan at CEW! I’m excited to bring back everything that I learned to my country and community.