By Ryan Cooper (YES 2022-2023, Liberia, placed by Ayusa in San Antonio, TX)
I arrived in the United States in August and met other exchange students from Cameron, Sierra Leone, and Pakistan. We had a great time at the YES orientation in Washington, D.C. and went on our way to meet our host parents. I was overwhelmed when I got on to my flight to Texas. When I arrived at the airport, I met my host mom and she was holding a board that read, "Welcome Ryan." I went to her with a huge smile and gave her a big hug. From that day on I have created a very strong bond with her. She asks me about my home country and I ask her about the United States. My host mom has always been a loving and caring woman. She tries by all means to keep me happy. At home, every Friday is a family night which involves playing cards, talking about our week at school, and asking each other questions to get to know each other more. She teaches me games they play in the U.S. and I showed her how we play card games in Liberia.
On August 22, I started school at Tom C. Clark High School where I met some positive and kind students from the basketball and track teams. I started school with the mindset of meeting wonderful instructors and friends. I've always tried to be part of every activity that will make me have a great exchange and my host mom has been helping me get involved by taking me to football and soccer games. My host mom took me to the SAMSAT Museum, The Tower of the Americas, a San Antonio FC soccer game, and football games.
During International Education Week, I presented about my country at an elementary school in San Antonio. Before my presentation, I first practiced with my host mom. I told her about the food we eat, how we speak, and how Liberia was founded. My host mom even cooked one of the soups we usually eat in Liberia, okra soup, and we ate it for lunch.
I presented powerpoint slides about Liberia to all of my classes during IEW. I also prepared a poster with the common language that we speak in Liberia called “the Liberian colloquial” with the English translations. Lastly, I brought Liberian dollars and showed them to the students. I'm really enjoying sharing my culture with my peers and learning from them in the same way about the U.S.
Coming on this exchange program has made me more open minded to share my thoughts and feelings with other people. I am able to share my culture with the people here and learn from them. This exchange program has made me find some talents in myself, especially being part of the Clark High School Speech and Debate Team. When I came on this exchange program, I wrote in my diary, "Life situations are not static so to get better you have to build your connections with people, get involved, and bring out the best in you.”