YES Programs



My Most Cherished Moments

Fatima And Her Young Host Sister Pushing A Wheelbarrow Of Pumpkins

By Fatima Aidara (YES 2019-2020, Kuwait, placed by PAX in Seattle, WA) 

My first experience in the United States was different from many other exchange students because I did not have a host family at first. Instead, I lived with my local coordinator, which presented its own set of challenges. On my first night, I was overcome with emotion and cried uncontrollably as I came to terms with being so far away from my friends and family. Despite being surrounded by my peers in Washington, D.C., I still had a hard adjustment to make to a new life filled with cultural differences. 

Fatima Chopping Up Meat At A Kitchen Counter

Soon, I was placed with my own host family through a friend at my host school. I was excited and optimistic about this new living arrangement, and I was not disappointed. My host mother, Heather, was one of the kindest people I had ever met, and my host siblings were also wonderful. My host father, who was a pilot, was away on a trip when I first arrived, but I eventually got to meet him. 

In the beginning, my host family asked me many questions that I didn’t understand. However, I quickly remembered the advice given during the D.C. orientations to answer every question with respect, as this was an opportunity to share my cultural values with Americans. Despite some initial difficulties, I adjusted to my new life, including waking up at 9 a.m. on weekends and learning to complete my chores and household responsibilities. 

My host father was a great source of emotional support for me during times when I felt homesick or overwhelmed. He encouraged me to open up about my feelings and taught me that it was okay to not feel okay. Over time, I grew to consider my host family as my own family, and our connection was not hindered by our different religions or cultural backgrounds. We had deep discussions about our respective beliefs and learned from one another. 

Looking back, I am incredibly grateful to my host family for showing me the ropes and teaching me important life lessons. They were the first to expose me to American traditions like Christmas and took me to visit a military base for the Air Force. They taught me the value of mutual respect, emotional awareness, and happiness. Even now, years later, we remain in contact and plan to visit each other whenever we can.