By Flaka A. (YES 2019-20, Kosovo, hosted by S4-H in Prairie du Sac, WI)
I can't believe this is the last month of our exchange year. It has been a great experience, and it's very hard to accept the fact that it is all coming to an end. When I came to Wisconsin eight months ago, I was a 17 year-old student from Kosovo, who did not have much experience with people outside my own culture.
I never thought I would be an exchange student, and to be honest, I didn't even know I had an opportunity like that in my country; so when I found out, I was so excited to try my hardest to become one. After I received the email with the news that I was a finalist, I didn't know how to feel. I was excited and happy, but at the same time very scared and confused. I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't know what being an exchange student meant. All I knew was that there are three people ready to open their home and welcome me into their family. Knowing that made everything less scary and brought even more excitement with it. People told me that it would not be easy; they told me I would change, my family and friends would change, and things would not be the same. A year ago that scared me.
The idea of change was scary, but here I am now, ending my exchange year and feeling grateful for all the changes I went through.
Being thousands of miles away from home was not easy. Like everything in life my experience had ups and downs, but it's the hard times that teach you the most. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and I’ve become more mature and independent. I learned a lot going to school in the United States, but the most important lessons were the ones outside of the classroom. I had amazing opportunities to become a young ambassador of my country, and I did many presentations about my country and culture and also learned about many other ones. These experiences made me become more tolerant, and I think I helped people understand more about my heritage.
I expanded my knowledge and my horizon, and I look at life differently now. I joined clubs and I did sports. I volunteered and challenged myself. I went to so many places and did so many things, and I loved every moment of it. These are just a few of my experiences and there are so many on my list. With the help of my host parents, my friends, and my community, I understood how America really is; I broke so many stereotypes and lived the American dream.
I know that I am one of the few lucky ones to live overseas for a year. The lessons I learned will stay with me forever, and I cannot wait to share them with people back home. Exchange is not a year in my life, it's a life in a year, and the bonds I created while being here will continue forever.
I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey, my program for giving me this amazing opportunity, my friends for showing me around and making me a part of them, and most importantly, my host family for treating me like their own daughter.
Until we meet next time...Goodbye, see you later!
With love, Flaka ❤