By Dalela Sarhan (YES 2019-2020, Jordan, hosted by PAX in Black River Falls, WI)
I always wanted to be an exchange student, and learn about different cultures and lifestyles. I’m so thankful that YES program gave me the opportunity to experience all of that. I was hosted in Black River Falls, which is a small town in the state of Wisconsin.
At first I was pretty nervous to leave my family and friends for a year, but at the same time I was so excited to meet new people, make new friends and try new things. I ended up loving everything about being an exchange student. I loved how people have been so welcoming at school, and how people are always willing to learn everything about me and Jordan, my home country. I really liked how my host family is so welcoming, and how they make me feel at home. They were like a second family to me. I liked how I made friends quickly. I didn’t actually have really close friends, but at the same time I was friends with everyone and they all knew me at school.
Sports and activities had a special part in my exchange year in the US. In the fall I did cheerleading which was one of the sports that I always wanted to try since I was little. Cheerleading was a great way to get to know people, be recognized at school, and it was also so much fun. I was always excited to cheer at every game for our football team, and I was always interested in the game which made football my favorite American sport to watch.
In the winter I decided to join the basketball team, which was one of the best decisions I made. I really had so much fun, I made a lot of friends and I stayed in shape. I always liked how supportive my team was, I liked how they always cheered for me and I liked how they stood for each other. In the spring I decided to do track which is the sport that I was looking forward the most, but unfortunately our track season got suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During my exchange year, I always tried to be busy all the time and volunteering was the best way to keep busy and help other people. I always liked volunteering at the public library in my town. I always liked how the staff at the library appreciated my effort and showed me how thankful they are for me helping them.
Coronavirus has impacted my exchange year a lot. Unfortunately, the pandemic occurred when I was experiencing the best time of my exchange year. It suspended my track season, canceled some of my trips, prom and graduation, but at the same time it taught me personally a lot of lessons. I learned that things happen for a reason and we always have to stay strong and positive as much as we can. It also taught us that we should always think about others.
Doing an exchange year in the United States was the best decision I’ve ever made. I made a lot of friends, a second family who means a lot to me, and I’ve grown a lot through this experience. I learned a lot of lessons about life and how to be strong and look forward.