By Deep Kaur (YES 2019-2020, Pakistan, placed with American Councils in South Tama, IA)
It has been a while since I returned from my exchange year in the U.S. I remember that I was so excited to be placed in Iowa because it was the first state that the democratic presidential nominees were campaigning in; I was keeping up with American politics and reading about all the candidates. It was such an honor to meet almost all of the candidates, including U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, current Vice President Kamala Harris, current President Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Meeting the candidates in person was an amazing experience. I did not realize that I had met the future U.S. President at the time! I remember meeting Joe Biden and him telling me how they created the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program while he was in the U.S. Senate. He also told me about his visit to Pakistan and how glad he was to meet an ambassador like me.
What I learned, while I was meeting all the candidates, was how humble and understanding they all were. The way they interacted with people and actually listened to the public was incredible. I have never met a Pakistani politician who has a big influence in the government. In Pakistan, it is not a norm for the public to meet politicians. I think it’s really important for politicians to go out there and understand what the public wants.
The lesson that I learned from my YES journey was how open the American people are. It is not an easy thing to host someone, and the fact that so many Americans give exchange students a place in their homes and schools inspired me to be more open towards people and spread love. YES developed me as a person; the ideologies that I picked up in the U.S. are what I preach. The character that I developed, and the things that I learned from Americans, such as selfless service, is what inspires me to make a difference in my home community.
I am so grateful for this experience. Thank you for everything, YES!