YES Programs



My Alaskan Exchange Year

Badminton State Championships

By Leena Tarar (YES 2018-2019, Pakistan, hosted by AFS-USA in Anchorage, AK)

I would like to start my story right from the moment when this beautiful chapter of my life was first introduced to me. Of course, at that moment being placed in Alaska did not seem all too nice but as the time passed by, whoever I told about my placement was just as surprised as me. At first I started to think, why can't we do things other exchange students get to do in other states? 

When I stepped off the plane and a week had passed by, I saw how beautiful my host state was with its glaciers, mountains, snow and sun. Everything existing in one place at one time just amazed me. I decided to do as many different sports and activities that I had never done before. This motivation came from my Pre-Departure Orientation in Pakistan and from Ma'am Farah saying, 'Try new things'. Those words were just so saved in my memory that I couldn't forget them.  

Senior Night For Ice Hockey

I signed up for ice-hockey without knowing anything about it and I never knew I would make it to varsity and we would win State Championships. Later on, the badminton club of anchorage arranged State Championships in which I also won Girls Singles and Girls Doubles. I did not stop then; I joined shot put and discus which were also new sports for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the season. I also did a lot of biking and hikes including flattop in which I slid down the mountain. 

I was a teacher's aid for life skills (children with special needs) for the whole school year. The first ever exchange student facilitator in Pace. I volunteered more than 300 hours in my community. I got selected for a week long workshop known as Points of Light Youth Leadership which got me connected to the local government of Anchorage and increased my network of communication. I was not only successful in all of these things but also got honor roll for my academic performance. I did everything in Alaska and made things possible in this beautiful place because I was willing to try new things. I am very proud of being placed in Alaska because not very many exchange students get to say that they were placed in this beautiful piece of land. 

And yes, I forgot to tell that Alaskans don't live in igloos and don't have polar bears as their pets!

Points Of Youth Leadership Workshop


What advice do you have for the 2019-2020 YES students? 

Check out this month's story prompt at and submit YOUR story for the new #KLYES cohort!

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