By Lukman Bakir (YES 2019 – 2020, Libya, hosted by PAX in Franklin, IN)
It's September and very soon I will have completed the first month of my American dream! Now that I’ve nearly completed the first month of my exchange year, I wanted to share how things have been going so far with my family, teachers, fellow YES students and alumni, and prospective students too! I didn’t expect that my exchange year would be so challenging, but as the big day approached, I became more nervous and started to question myself. But when it was time to leave Libya, I was excited and thrilled for this life-changing experience.
As I took my first step in the United States, I was hopeful yet scared, excited yet anxious, and unsure of what to expect. My heart began to race when I picked up my luggage and got into the bus heading towards the 4H Center for DC Orientation. It was a dream coming true knowing that it was up to me to make the most out of this experience. It might sound scary for some, but I was waiting to see what I will do and how I'll adapt when my family isn’t around to wake me up or prepare food for me. I want to become more independent and push my own limits.
My host family has meant the world to me since the first day. My host dad helped my host brother, Tasio, and I adjust to life in Franklin, Indiana. Our host family has made me feel very welcome as they continue to tell us, “This is your house now.” What made me even feel more comfortable was when my host dad, Tasio and I were talking about house rules, and our host father emphasized that it was more important to establish trust among each other. Our host father said that we are in this exchange experience together and we all need to have each other's back. So fortunately, adapting to this new environment and lifestyle was made so easy for me thanks to my amazing host family!
After arriving, the next day was my first day of school! It’s hard to describe how nervous I felt, but none of that mattered, because everyone was so kind and welcoming. I answered many questions about Libya, and whether I am afraid of being so far away from my family. The "worst day", of school as many warned me, actually turned out to be one of the best days so far!
The only challenge I faced that week was looking at pictures of my baby sister back home, and hearing the sound of her laugh when she saw my face during our first video calls. Those first calls home were the hardest, but after talking about these feelings with my family, and sharing her pictures with my host family, I felt better. It’s not easy knowing that I am thousands of miles away and that my baby sister will grow up, take her first steps, say her first words and I'm not there to see any of this. I knew this is what I agreed to when I started this journey, and I am here now as a mini ambassador for Libya.
As the days pass, I am getting more used to my community and the surrounding culture of beautiful Franklin. If there’s one thing I want to share with my fellow YES peers, it's that it’s an accomplishment to have come this far and it took courage to leave our homes, but we still have a long way ahead of us! Let’s keep moving forward knowing that nothing grows in comfort zones and that, “it's not a year in life but a life in a year"!