By Mohammed AlGofaili (YES 2016–2017, Saudi Arabia, placed by AFS in Washington, IA)
Greetings! My name is Mohammed and I’m going to share with you my experience as an exchange student in the United States. My journey started in 2016, when I first heard about the program. I was enthusiastic about this opportunity so I decided to apply. During the application phase, I attended all the meetings and completed all the required assessments. In the end, I was lucky enough to be selected along with my 14 friends!
The time to depart from Saudi Arabia finally came, but my earlier excitement had faded into nervousness. However, I didn’t let this anxiety bring me down and I was determined to make the most out of my YES year. I arrived in the United States before the start of the school year and was placed with a temporary host family who helped me explore American culture and meet new people. After a month, I was moved to my permanent host placement with a family that included two children, Lena and Ransom, who were about my age. The family was so kind and loving as they helped me settle into my new home.
One month after moving into my permanent host placement, I began the best experience of my year abroad: attending a U.S. high school! Being athletic helped me get along with the other students as I made connections while playing on the school’s track, basketball, volleyball, and soccer teams. I was most involved with soccer and the coach named me captain of the team! My soccer team made it through to the state playoffs. I have so many great friends from my high school’s sport teams with whom I still keep in touch.
I also had fun celebrating American holidays, since these festivities were different experiences for me. I struggled with homesickness despite the fun times, but I overcame this struggle through engaging in community service and leading presentations about my home country. When you share your culture with others, it provides a sense of pride. Overall, the YES program was a wonderful memory that I thank God for every day.