By Amna Khan (YES 2021-2022, Pakistan, placed by PAX in San Antonio,TX)
On December 15th, after my final exam for my forensic science class, I got an email saying I had been selected as a finalist for Civic Education Week being held in February 2022. The workshop is a weeklong event hosted in Washington D.C. and funded by the U.S. Department of State. It gives students, like me, a chance to get a closer look at how American civil society functions.
Despite there being some uncertainty with the pandemic, I successfully made it to Washington D.C. and the best week of my exchange year began!! During the workshop, I created everlasting connections with exchange students from over thirty countries. These friendships and connections helped me realize that love is not bound to a country or a language and that life brings us all together from different corners of the world.
While in Washington D.C., I had the chance to meet the political staffer for one of Texas’s senators and several activists focused on equality, women’s rights, and disability rights. All these amazing and resilient people helped reshape the idea of leadership for me and getting to represent Pakistan along with my host state of Texas was an honor for me. I was also rewarded with the responsibility of Social Media Specialist during the workshop which truly humbled me and was a great learning experience.
Over the course of the week, my new exchange friends and I visited memorials and museums, ate in neighborhood restaurants, and watched a basketball game. The Civic Education Week created all these memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. Getting to also help with creating a grassroots project focused on creating a safe space for people with mental disabilities reminded me that even a small impact from one person is still an impact that matters. This idea has reinforced trust in myself and how I, as a leader, can continue my alumni journey in Pakistan.
Now, as a Civic Education Week alumna, I’m thankful for the experience and the people I got to meet. The Civic Education mentors who worked so hard to make this event possible along with the alumni who shared their amazing stories with my group will always be a highlight of my exchange year. I believe now, once I leave San Antonio in three months, I will have a legacy to tell, a memory to remember, and a lot of people I can call friends.