By: Jana Zakaria (YES 2019-2020, Lebanon, hosted by AYUSA in Villa Rica, GA)
I left home to go to my second home exactly two months ago. I started a challenging journey and many people thought would be difficult for a 15 year old girl to study abroad in a new country. I have to admit it wasn't easy to say goodbye to my family with tears in their eyes, knowing that I won’t see them till next year. The hardest part was all the questions that went through my head at the airport as I asked myself, “How am I going to do this? Will I be homesick?” But a big part of the YES program is about challenging yourself.
Things turned upside down at the airport in Washington, D.C. All that concerned me was what it would be like to meet my host family who I had never met before. My concern went away as soon as I met them. My host family immediately called me their daughter and treated me like their own child from the first day. They made me feel so special and like I was already part of their family. My two host siblings kept telling me “You’re the best big sister in the world,” and our bond is getting stronger every day.
I was so anxious for my first day of school. I had many bunch of theories about what my school would be like. When we finally arrived, I walked to Villa Rica High School and made my schedule. Since the school was so big I couldn’t find my classes but luckily a very kind person volunteered to help me find my way. I was overwhelmed by the teachers and classmates’ reaction when they knew that I was an exchange student and were eager to know about my home country. I have joined several clubs and activities in my school. I tried to make it into the basketball team but since I couldn’t commit to the time, the coach offered to let me be her manager for the rest of the year! I was beyond happy for that offer. My host family was proud of me as well and was very supportive.
Every weekend, my host family takes me to see new sites in Georgia. They never fail to make me happy. I have gone to the zoo and seen new animals species that I’ve never expected to see in real life. They’ve taken me twice to the Six Flags theme park and I saw the enormous roller coasters that I was really afraid to ride because of how high and huge they were. Last week, we went camping up in the mountains and saw some historical landmarks there too.
The best part in my journey so far is volunteering! I had the chance to volunteer at several activities including karate, an animal shelter, and most importantly, Halloween festivals. On behalf of all the YES students around the world and myself, thank you YES for this amazing lifetime opportunity. Thank you to the U.S. Department of State for making our lives better and making the world a better place. We’re forever grateful for our decision to apply for this scholarship and to challenge ourselves. My two months here have been a blast and even better than I expected. Everything still feels like a dream to me. I am looking forward to see what other successes are in store during these next seven months. For the future YES students, don’t forget to say YES to your life, cheer up, and put in your minds that dreams do come true.