By Abdulmuhayman Ghanayem (YES 2021-2022, Libya, placed by IRIS in Hampton, IA)
When I applied to the YES program, I didn’t fully understand the impact it would have on my life. I saw it as a terrific opportunity to gain education and skills, but I didn’t anticipate the enriching experiences that would come along with it, from forming deep relationships with my host family, teachers, and friends, to volunteering, to participating in sports.
The YES program opened my eyes to the world and introduced me to the endless opportunities the world has to offer. It also gave me a deep understanding of American culture, from their norms to their values. The payoff from that experience was priceless.
A huge part of my experience was the relationships I formed during my time in the U.S. I met some of my closest friends in basketball, track, and theatre. They were a huge part of making my experience incredible, and for me, creating relationships that transcend distance was a highlight of the program.
I also was able to share my culture with my host family and community through food, clothing, and traditions. They were fascinated by the differences between Libyan and American culture and traditions. I’d describe the program as the optimal opportunity to create relationships between nations, and it allows for growth and learning between individuals from across the world.
Ever since my return, I have stayed connected to my host family and friends through online platforms, talking and video chatting with them a few times a week. I’m extremely grateful to have such strong relationships with my host community.