By Mahadougou Diarra (YES 2019-20, Mali, hosted by ACES in Toledo, OH)
I am so happy to be an exchange student through the YES program in the U.S. Living in the U.S. was a dream for me and the YES program helped me realize it. I meet new people every day and always share about my country while I also learn more about other countries, particularly the U.S. itself.
My biggest challenge was adjusting to an American school but teachers and students were so kind toward me. At first, it was not easy to make friends because I was quite shy in talking to people. I ate alone for a couple of weeks but slowly, I started to make friends by opening up. Language was another challenge for me because of the style of pronunciation here - the teachers were sometimes fast and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. As a bilingual French speaker, it was hard to follow what people around me were saying. But over time, I asked my teachers to speak slower and explained that I was an exchange student. They are really patient and I am able to now participate better in classes for which I am thankful.
I have also been able to make some good friends. They are really nice to me and ask me a lot of questions about me and my country. I do my best to explain things clearly to them and enjoy being with them. My host family is very nice and I love them. We hang out and often discuss interesting things. I love them so much!
For New YES students, I would like to say “don’t be shy”, be open towards people, and be open minded and thankful. We only got one life so we must enjoy it and make the most of it. Enjoy your year. I also want to say thanks to the YES program for this incredible opportunity!