YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
By Farha Hamed (YES 2017–2018, Kuwait, placed by AFS in Apopka, FL)
I have always lacked confidence in myself. I never believed that I could do anything. The simplest action, like placing an order at a restaurant, would make me so nervous that even my parents would notice. But then the YES program changed everything. Thanks to the YES program, I became a version of myself that I always dreamed I could be. Being away from my family and having to rely on myself helped me gain the confidence that I previously lacked. All these experiences slowly helped me become the Farha I am now.
When I went to Washington, D.C. for the student orientation, my peers and I were given a day to go to the local mall. At the mall, there were all kinds of shops and restaurants to browse through. At the food court, we had to order our meals and I felt the same nerves come to the surface. My first thought was to order the same lunch as my friend, but then I remembered that I left my home to grow. After reflecting on my goals for the year, suddenly ordering food felt so easy. Once I placed my order, I became determined to return to Kuwait a different person.
During International Education Week, I was so nervous to give a presentation about Kuwait to my class. Even though I was growing in confidence as more time passed, I still felt nervous to speak in front of a crowd. I confided in one of my favorite teachers, and he told me that everyone would love to listen to my presentation. My teacher’s encouragement helped reassure me that it wouldn’t be so hard. When I started the presentation, I felt a bit nervous, but as I continued, my classmates started asking questions. As I answered, I stopped feeling nervous. When it was time to give the presentation to my other classes, I felt ready and prepared.
After my exchange year in 2019, the YES program offered a two-day workshop called, “Engaging the Next Generation of Youth Leaders” in Bahrain. The Bahraini YES alumni gave presentations about the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leadership development. When the program coordinator who was leading the workshop asked us what we want to develop in ourselves, I answered that I wanted to be more confident. The program coordinator, along with the other YES alumni, was shocked at my response and replied, “You are the most confident person in this group.” The other YES alumni told me, “You have all the confidence a person could have. I don’t think there is more confidence that you could add to yourself.” In that moment, I realized that I accomplished my goal to gain more confidence. I had grown so accustomed to my lack of confidence, that I didn’t notice that I had grown into the confident version of myself that I strived for so long to attain.
The version of me who started the journey was a shy, young girl who would speak in a low voice. By the end of the journey, that little girl is no longer shy and now she knows what she wants and how to achieve it.