Upon meeting Bashar Raydan (YES 2020-2021, Lebanon, virtually placed with AFS-USA in Carlsbad, CA), his host family, peers, and program staff alike recognized his innate curiosity and passion for intercultural learning.
Bashar quickly emerged a leader amongst his peers through his active participation in enhancement activities and peer-to-peer sessions, and his close relationship with his host family. When nominating Bashar for the Virtual YES Student Spotlight, a fellow YES student shared, “I saw [Bashar] participating a lot, asking questions that I didn't know I needed answers to. He's really a shining star.” Bashar solidified his understanding of the YES program goals, specifically promoting mutual understanding between nations, through both his words and his actions. Throughout his virtual program, Bashar has made it his mission to share Lebanese culture in the United States by demonstrating how to cook traditional Lebanese foods, giving presentations on Lebanon, and translating plays that reflect Lebanese culture and society into English for students to perform in school.
Bashar has learned valuable skills through his participation in the YES program. Specifically, Bashar developed self-confidence and sense of self, goals which had initially served as motivation for his participation in the YES program. Bashar shared with program staff, “Although I didn't get the chance to travel to the United States, participating with AFS in the virtual exchange program made me enjoy the enthusiasm and excitement of chatting and having conversations with people in another country with the support and security of a host family, a new set of brothers and sisters, and most importantly amazing AFS volunteers.” He also shared his newfound appreciation for community service, the opportunity it provides to become an active member of a community, and the lasting impact it has on society at large.
Additionally, Bashar has served as an ambassador of his culture through his frequent and thorough communications with U.S. students through program activities organized by his placement organization. An AFS U.S. peer shared, “I was talking with Bashar, and he noticed that my last name was familiar. I knew that it came from Arabic, and that it had origins in Lebanon, but not much else. Bashar was able to tell me all about the name, its Arabic roots, and he even found the very town in Lebanon that my great grandfather was from! Bashar helped me learn more about myself and my heritage, which I would have been clueless about otherwise.”
Bashar considers the virtual YES program to be one of his most beneficial experiences. He shared that, “By studying abroad virtually, I had the opportunity to study in a foreign nation and take in the allure, traditions, and culture of a new land. Thus, the YES exchange program offered me the ability to widen my horizon and pursue my passion by various ways, such as making lifelong friends, finding new interests, taking in a new culture, and most importantly discovering the world generally, and the United States specifically.”