By Diadji Diawara (YES 2019-20, Mali, hosted by AFS-USA in Cleveland, OH)
I am passionate about traveling and seeing the world. Traveling gives us the opportunity to meet new people from different cultures, share our culture, and discover new places. It was because of my passion for traveling that I decided to apply for the YES program, a U.S. Department of State sponsored program, which has the goal of promoting mutual understanding between people from the U.S. and students from predominantly Muslim countries.
As someone who was about to live in the country of hamburgers, I was very excited. Excited to make friends, live with my new American family, and live my best life. I arrived in Washington D.C. for my orientation and it was awesome to meet people that were so friendly to me. I thought that maybe it will be easy to live in the U.S. after meeting these people but what I forgot was that they were like me: they were not American.
When I arrived in my city and met my host family, it was magic and I felt like I was living a dream till the first day of school. In American movies you can see school as the most amazing place for a teenager. I expected to be a star. I thought that everybody would like to be my friend but I was wrong. Instead of being the most beautiful moment of my life, my first day at school became a nightmare. I couldn’t understand what my teachers were saying and nobody was talking to me. That day I ate alone thinking that maybe I should go back home because it seemed to be hard to adjust to life in the U.S. and I was not feeling strong enough to accomplish that.
I was homesick that entire week and I kept all my feelings for me because I was not ready to tell it to my host family. I thought that they would feel as bad as me. One of the YES alumni I know advised me to talk to my host mum and that was what I did the next day. I was crying in front of her and told her I didn’t want to go to school. My host mum listened to my complaint, hugged me tightly, and she said “I think life is full of challenges and problems. I don’t believe that anyone is perfect. We all make mistakes. It is not a bed of roses and you have to work real hard at it”. This sentence can seem really simple but it gave me the strength to have a positive attitude.
Since I had this discussion, I became more open, talked with new people, joined a robotics team, and did some volunteering hours. Then I started feeling like I was at home with a family that loved me and that changed everything! My advice to other exchange students who might be dealing with homesickness is to take initiatives, reach out and ask for help, and enjoy this new life to the fullest!!