YES Programs



My American Road Trip

Photo of a long desert road with cactus and sand in the background.

By Duresa Rushiti (YES 2019 -2020, North Macedonia, placed by ACES in Corning, CA) 

The idea of living the American dream was always just that for me: a dream. That is until I learned that I had been selected to spend a year in the United States, during which I experienced many dreams come true. One of the many memorable moments during my stay in California was the cross-country road trip that my host dad organized.  

Duresa poses in front of a research poster she created and presented.
Duresa poses in front of a research poster she created.

After the pandemic began, schools were closed in April, and there were initially few travel restrictions. As a result, I was able to visit twelve states: Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, and Arizona. We began our journey in mid-April using one of my host father's trucks and visiting the states we had circled on our map in preparation. Considering how vast California is, it took us a considerable amount of time to reach Salt Lake City, Utah, where I was awestruck by the whiteness of the ground, which was not snow but rather salt.  

In addition to the breathtaking landscapes, my favorite part of the trip was the time I spent bonding with my host father. Before the pandemic, he was the person I saw the least among my host family, but this trip gave us the chance to discuss a variety of topics, which left me with a great appreciation for him and his dedication to life.  

We stopped practically everywhere on this trip, and I was also able to sample various snacks and cuisines from other states. I am a major foodie, so any adventure that involved food was a blessing for me.  

One of our stops along the way was at one of the largest truck and souvenir shops. It was intriguing to witness the variety of vehicles and the evolution of their designs over time. After that, traveling across Arizona was enticing and refreshing, as I found its beauty to be distinct from that of the other states I had seen.  

Since I stayed in Northern California, we made a stop in Southern California on our way back from Arizona. The visit to the Poppy Field, which was filled with orange Poppies, or so-called “Californian flowers,” is one of the moments that I recall distinctly, and which fills me with enormous joy.  

During this trip, besides seeing wonderful sites and the beauty of the states, I also gained deep appreciation and gratitude for my host family that made it possible for me to see love through different lenses. I was taught once more that blood doesn't make family; they are my family, they are people I genuinely care about, and it is because of them that I am the person I am today, and that for me is the American Dream that I didn't even dream was possible.