By Aleeza Rauf (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by AFS-USA in Jericho, VT)
It is hard to believe that the little five year old Aleeza who dreamt of going to the United States is now in the U.S. enjoying her exchange year. I am half way through my exchange year and I have experienced spectacular things. I have played basketball, tried swimming, gone snowboarding, ice skating, and watched a lot of ice hockey and volleyball games.
One of the most exciting things of my exchange year was going to New York City for Christmas. It was my first time celebrating Christmas and I had a lot of fun wrapping presents, decorating the Christmas tree, and watching Christmas movies with my host family. My host family has a Christmas tradition that on Christmas Eve they have a big dinner and invite a lot of their friends and family members. I made brownies for dessert on Christmas. My host family did everything they could to show me every single cultural thing in New York. I went to the Statue of Liberty museum and watched Beetlejuice on Broadway. We celebrated my 16th birthday and the whole day my host family treated me like a princess and for dinner we went to have dinner in an Indian restaurant. My host uncle made cake for me and we all went mountain biking and ice skating for my birthday. Being an exchange student, the most fun part has been making new friends in a new country.
Vermont is a beautiful state to live in. When I came here in September, I saw the most beautiful fall of my life ever and met with a new family. They are really sweet, caring, and loving. I am enjoying it a lot with my host family. I always wished to have a sister but now I have two host sisters and they are really nice. This half of my exchange year has nourished me a lot. I learnt how to interact with a different community and how to represent my culture. I have gained leadership skills and confidence in public speaking by giving presentations in my host community and at my host school.
During International Education Week (IEW), I gave a presentation at my high school and I showed my peers cultural items that I brought from my home country. I showed them Pakistani currency, some clothing items, and played some Pakistani music. My host mother is a teacher at a middle school so she invited me to her school so that they can learn about my country. I gave each of the middle schoolers a flag of my country and gave them time to ask questions. I made some Pakistani dishes for my host family and their friends.
During the next half of my exchange year, I am planning to learn more things and to show my culture as much as I can. My focus is mostly on improving my leadership abilities because these will help me back in my home country.