YES Programs



My First Impressions of Wisconsin

Seba From Saudi Arabia Poses With Two Classmates In Front Of Flags

By Seba Altawfiq (YES 2021–2022, Saudi Arabia, placed by AFS in Belgium, WI) 

When I first arrived to the U.S., my first thought was that everyone was so friendly! I was initially worried if I’d be accepted and welcomed because my hijab made me stand out, especially in a midwestern state. To my surprise, everyone wanted to talk to me and get to know me! I answered all of their questions about Saudi Arabia despite how funny I thought they were. I remember one girl genuinely asking, “Do you guys have shapes where you’re from?”. It took a lot of willpower to answer her question with a straight face, but I said, “Yes, we do have shapes. They just have different names in Arabic.”  

Seba And Classmates Pose In Group Photo Wearing Matching Sweatshirts

I loved sharing my culture through conversations and formal presentations. Many people had lots of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia and lots of others had questions to ask regarding religion and rules and such. After giving them better insight, I hope that they learned from my presentation and that they’ll share the knowledge they gained with others. 

The first group that I hung out with was the volleyball team. Joining the team was a great opportunity for me since there is a lack of girls playing sports in Saudi Arabia. My teammates welcomed me to the junior varsity (JV) team almost immediately and enthusiastically helped teach me the sport. This was the first sport I had ever played, and I looked forward to every practice and game. After every away game, we would all go out to eat at a restaurant together and get ice cream. For our last game, our coach asked me to play one of the hardest positions and I was very nervous, but I still played well!  

Playing volleyball was one of the highlights of my year, and I now have an appreciation for sports thanks to it. I got to see and experience the world and school from different perspectives. I got to do things outside my comfort zone, and it was totally worth it! In the end, I also learned that sports are more than just a game. Sports help you find a sense of belonging and accomplishment as well as discipline, compassion, and character.  

My life in America was not like the movies, but in a good way. Overall, I had an amazing first impression of America and I am glad other students are still able to experience it as well!