By Sereena Raza (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by World Link in Commerce Township, MI)
To help prevent homesickness during my first month in the U.S., my host family planned a trip for us to travel to New York together, which had always been one of my top travel destinations. My motivation to accomplish more during my exchange year increased as a result of this trip. We went to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as biking around Central Park.
Attending my new high school in Michigan has marked the start of a new chapter in my life, so different from high school in my hometown. I met many new students when I attended homecoming wearing a traditional Pakistani dress and got to spend time with friends. I joined the Green and Forensic Science clubs at school, as well as the Student Council, and I managed the backstage crew for our school musical. I have also been volunteering at a library and a food pantry, doing fundraising and trash clean ups, and participating in a gift drive.
For International Education Week, I shared my culture through dressing in traditional Pakistani clothing, giving in-class presentations, and cooking Pakistani dishes like samosas — a snack made with fried dough and a savory filling that included components like spiced potatoes, onions, and peas. I was so appreciative of everyone who made my IEW unique and showed such enthusiasm for finding out about my country.
My first American holiday was Halloween. I dressed up like a witch, went to a Halloween party, and did trick-or-treating in my neighborhood with my siblings and neighbors. I love how Americans celebrate Halloween and all the house decorations you can see. Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas were also some of my favorite moments. Meeting many other relatives of my host family played a major role in enhancing my experience. Michigan showed me that I'm a warm weather person. I had never considered living here in the cold before. However, I now adore Michigan's snow and its beauty. I am grateful to YES for realizing my dream, to my placement organization for finding me a wonderful family, to my natural and host families, and to everyone else who has always stood by me. I can't believe that half of my exchange year has come and gone, filled with new adventures. I expect the next half to be equally amazing. I will truly adore and treasure these memories and people for all time.