By Rameen Tahir (YES 2020-2021, Pakistan, virtually placed with AFS-USA in Pittsburgh, PA)
The YES virtual program has provided me with the opportunity to learn more about the U.S. The program offers many virtual activities — a minimum of two virtual activities and one peer exchange is required per month. I have enjoyed each and every activity I have participated in. Every student is encouraged to speak up and express what they are learning. For me, it has been a really good experience.
One activity I really enjoyed was virtually meeting Leslye Orr, a Blind actress who created the “Hand in Hand” play production, which tells the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, two American disability rights advocates. As part of the show, Orr invites audience members to close their eyes and learn to "see" using their other senses. It was really interesting to speak with Leslye Orr and by doing the activity of "seeing" with my other senses, I learned that sense of touch is really important.
Another virtual activity that I really enjoyed was learning about Thanksgiving. I learned a lot about the traditional holiday by watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and talking with my virtual host family. I have learned a lot about American culture by making a great connection with my host family. They taught me about American traditions. During Christmas, my host family showed me the holiday decorations they made and the decorations around their neighborhood. It was all really beautiful.
Overall I have met so many friends and mentors during the virtual program and learned a lot about their cultures. My three biggest takeaways from the YES virtual program are that firstly, I gained confidence talking to people who I don’t know. Secondly, I acknowledged so much about the cultures of different countries and made good connections with my peers. Thirdly, I realised that when we do something it is important for us to show dedication for that certain thing whether it is small or big. Life gives us more if we work on it more.