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Journey of a Lifetime

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By Naïma Mohamadou (YES 2019-20, Cameroon, hosted by ACES in Toledo, OH)

Coming to the U.S. through the YES program has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to experience what being an exchange student means. I will always and forever cherish this experience. I consider this as one of the best things that ever happened to me because I gained a lot of confidence in myself and I feel more mature and tolerant. I learned to understand others and accept them as they are. I never felt this happy in my life as I do now. Not only did this year teach me to never give up and always fight for what I want but it also taught me to live with others and to adjust myself no matter what situation I find myself in. I learned that you can feel loved and at home far away from home, I made unforgettable memories and everlasting friends. I saw my dream of living the American life come true and most importantly I learned to always dream big and believe in my dreams. 

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Picture from my trip to Chicago.

Even though the coronavirus is affecting my year right now because I can’t experience prom or graduation, I am happy that I really made the best out of my year and I don’t regret any moment. Everyday permits me to become a better person, to fight for what I want. To smile and put a smile on other people’s faces as well. Quarantine allows me to spend more time with my host family and interact with them by playing games and also more time to interact with my friends. I am really sad my experience is coming to an end but at least I learned a lot from this year. I grew and now I am a better person than I was on my first day here.

I am very grateful to my host family, teachers, and friends because they all made sure I had a good time here. My host parents made me part of their family and made me understand that they would always be there for me when needed. My teachers showed me kindness and support and my friends showed me that they had my back that we are a team and that we are here for one another.

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This photo represents diversity - no matter where you come or who you are, you learn to be tolerant and understand not better not worse just different.

During this quarantine to stay busy, I spend a lot of time with my host family. We have a game night every Friday night and it’s really fun. I also cook, do my chores, write in my journal, make videos on my exchange year, do workouts or go for a walk with my host mom. I talk a lot more with my friends here as well. Right now, I am preparing for Ramadan. This is actually my first Ramadan far from home and I want to make the best out of it. My host mom is willing to try to do Ramadan with me. She didn’t know much about the Muslim community before and she actually learned a lot. I plan to do some decorations for my room during Ramadan and also cook my favorite foods.

To all the future exchange students, always grab every opportunity that is offered to you. Enjoy every moment and get involved as much as you can even when you feel down. Remember that better days are yet to come. Get up and make things happen! Never be discouraged, never give up, and always give the best to get what you want.


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How did your YES experience change you? What have you learned about yourself, the U.S. and the world?

Check out this month's story prompt at bit.ly/YESstorywriting and submit your story!