By Nagham Hourani (YES 2020–2021, Jordan, virtually placed with PAX in Grand Junction, MI)
Since COVID-19 came, all our lives have changed. One of the biggest setbacks was having my in-person exchange year canceled and switched to a virtual program. At first, I thought that I lost the opportunity for a meaningful cultural exchange. I felt disappointed and frustrated. But now that I am halfway through my virtual exchange program, my outlook has greatly changed. The virtual exchange program has been life-changing!
I’ve felt love behind the computer screens, despite the actual distance. My host family welcomed me with a warm smile, gave me their time, and accepted me as a virtual member of their family. My host family consists of my host father, host mother, two host sisters, and another exchange student. I enjoy every conversation with them, especially when we talk about what’s going on with each other’s lives and our daily routines. They taught me about many holiday traditions, like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Thanksgiving. I especially enjoyed learning about Thanksgiving because it was something new. I had heard about Thanksgiving, but my host family explained how American families celebrate this famous holiday. I’m blessed and very happy to have them in my life, and I hope that we can meet in person someday.
With my local coordinator and digital peers, we share our different cultures, and I’ve led several presentations on my home country, Jordan. Now I know so many new things about new countries like Ukraine, South Africa, and the United States. I did a presentation about my own country and its traditions. I taught my peers some Arabic words and how we celebrate the holidays. I’ve shown them my house decorations and let them listen to traditional Jordanian music. It was so much fun, and they liked it so much! My local coordinator and digital peers are all very nice, and I also hope I can meet them all in the future.
Since day one, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about American culture, holidays, traditions, and daily life. Every moment has been special, and I enjoy every second of our virtual meetings. I can’t believe that I’m halfway through this year, and I don’t want it to end. Throughout this virtual program, I’ve grown attached to everyone. My favorite thing about the virtual program is having meetings with my host family and friends from all over the world. Every memory, every person, and every moment will remain in my heart. I’ll never forget this experience, and I’m so thankful that I’ve received this unique opportunity.