By Cvetanka Pasinechka (YES 2019-2020, North Macedonia, placed with CIEE in Ringgold, GA)
The YES program helps you understand people from different backgrounds and mature as a young adult. My exchange year in the U.S. not only allowed me to share my country and its culture with my host community, but also learn about American traditions and values. I got to meet exchange students from other countries as well, which helped me broaden my knowledge and understanding of the world.
For my year in the U.S. I was placed with a wonderful host family in Ringgold, Georgia and attended Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. My host family, along with the teachers and students at my school, all made me feel welcome and helped me have an amazing time. I experienced Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for the very first time. These holiday memories are some of my favorites, which I will remember forever. I was a part of many extracurricular activities at my school, including cross-country running, being the manager of the girls’ basketball team, playing soccer, and volunteering in my free time. Being a part of these activities allowed me to make many friends, who I still talk to today. They made sure that I got the full American experience. We spent our days together trying their favorite foods and activities while getting even closer and making lifelong friendships.
My experience in the U.S. was unforgettable, but one of the best parts of the program is that I am now able to use my new knowledge and understanding of other cultures to improve my community in North Macedonia. The program does not end when you come back from your exchange year. After coming back home, I have implemented projects focused on keeping my community informed and protected from the coronavirus and making sure that children have the ability to have fun during quarantine.
The best part of my YES experience was making connections with people from different corners of the world. Being away from my regular community, I was able to learn about the value of my relationship with them. And by getting to know my host family and making new friends, I was able to enrich myself and become more understanding of others. Both of these factors make me a more positive and motivated person, and I am now driven to use this newfound potential and skills to make my community and the world a better place to live in.