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Not High School Musical, But Better!

Layal And Butterfly Mural

By: Layal Alshmassi (YES 2019-2020, Saudi Arabia, hosted by the STS Foundation in Nampa, ID) 

I started from watching American TV shows to thinking I was going be in one during my YES year. I imagined being in East High School with a Sharpay Evans, Troy, and Gabriella. I imagined screaming, "Wild Cats, Wild Cats,” and many more High School Musical related phrases.

Layal And The Fall Trees

Then the day arrived when I met my host family at the Boise Airport in the state of Idaho, the state of potatoes. I felt nervous excitement as I was finally meeting my host family who I'd been in contact with for a few months! The first few days were a blast, at that time I had already visited the Idaho state capital and a hot air balloon festival!

Then it was time to experience my first day of high school in the United States. I was driving up to school with my host mom, and expected a big high school with thousands of students, a huge cafeteria that included mean girls at one table, and cool kids at another. I had a bunch of theories that kept coming to my mind. A few moments past with a whole bunch of mixed feelings running through me, and suddenly we arrive at the school. 

Layal And The Canyons

When I saw the school, I thought to myself, "Oh this is the big school that I was thinking to be in?" I walked through the building of Liberty Charter School, I set up my six-class schedule, and it was time to find my classrooms. I met a girl who volunteered to show me around, and we talked and laughed, I had already made a friend! The first day of school was great, I made friends, and everyone was super nice which made me so happy.

A few weeks later I and my host family took a nine hour drive to St. George, Utah, and it was one of the most amazing trips ever! I saw the canyons there, and it was one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. I went to super cool museums and learned about pioneers too. 

Since this past Wednesday, on October 15th was YES Appreciation Day, I would like to thank the US Department of State, and the YES program for giving us this year to discover life in the United States. On behalf of all the YES students around the world and myself, we thank you for this life-changing experience. My first month in the United States was like a dream, and even more amazing than what I expected! I often repeat the phrase taught to us at our YES Orientation in DC: “Not better, not worse - just different.” In the beginning I didn’t think this phrase made much sense, but actually, it means more than what I thought! 


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