YES Programs



An International New Year’s Dinner

Elsa Her Double Placement And Her Host Family During The New Years Dinner
Elsa Her Double Placement And Her Host Family Wearing Christmas Pajamas

By Elsa Haxhija (2021-2022, Kosovo, placed by PAX in San Antonio, TX)

Before going to the United States for my YES experience, I was extremely excited for all the aspects of holidays that I grew up watching in American movies: singing, plenty of food, people gathering, gifts, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. What I was most excited about was New Year’s. Since this is the most common holiday in my culture, I was curious how people in the United States celebrated it, especially because that would be my first time celebrating New Year’s without my family.

During the holidays from October to December, my host family and I did a lot of planning. We were always doing something or going somewhere so my double placement, Amna, and I would have an authentic holiday experience. After an amazing Christmas experience, with all the decorations, school spirit, and delicious food, it was finally time for New Year’s. However, I noticed that many people were exhausted from all the Christmas shenanigans and that not everyone was excited for New Year’s.

Elsa Her Double Placement And Host Family Posing With Santa

Our host parents decided to invite their family (now our family too) from Oklahoma over for New Year’s, which was our first time meeting them. We were all hoping to do something interesting to have a wonderful New Year’s, so we decided that we would all cook something from our respective countries. We were a very international family, so we decided to have an international-style New Year’s Eve. My host dad, Patxi, was from the Dominican Republic, and my host mom, Ylenia, was from Spain; their cuisine was delicious. I decided to bake éclair, and Amna made us a tasty dish from Pakistan called buttered chicken. After we cooked and ate our amazing dinner while listening to Albanian, Pakistani, Spanish, and Dominican music, we went upstairs to see the fireworks. That is when I realized that that might have been the best holiday of my life.

I learned that to have the best experience possible, I needed to communicate as much as possible. For example, if I did not tell my host family how important it was to me to celebrate New Year’s, I would not have been able to enjoy it as much, and I would’ve been home sick. I was so happy that I had the chance to learn how diverse America is and how important it is to exchange cultures and understand each other on that night. At the end of the day, we are “not better, not worse, just different.”