By Lea Ghandour (YES 2019–2020, Lebanon, hosted by AFS in Raytown, MO)
My first month in Raytown has already passed, with nine more months to go! It’s true that time does fly by fast. I can still taste that last ‘knafah’ that I ate as I went to the airport to go to DC. It was a long journey to get here but it was worth it! After three memorable days in DC, my peers and I headed to our respective states, full of excitement and nerves, but ready to begin our new adventures. All of us were thinking about our first encounters with our host families and what it would be like. We asked ourselves how it would go, what we would do, and how we should act. There were also so many "what-if" scenarios circling in our minds.
When I was walking towards my bag in the airport after landing in Missouri, I saw my host parents looking around in search for me, so I quickly walked towards them, and they welcomed me with a warm hug. This first encounter made me realize that I’m not far from home. Our drive to Raytown was full of sites and scenes that are different to me as I looked out to new roads, new weather, and finally we arrived at home!
Five days after my arrival to Missouri, I started high school. My first day was fun as I went to my new classes, met new people, and experienced the diversity my school has to offer. I joined the varsity cheerleading team, tried out for cross country, and enrolled in a volunteering organization called the Key Club. I also still managed to be in the youth group of my hometown to organize events and share my culture with others. It’s amazing to try so many new things every single day and learn so much. I also enjoy sharing Lebanese food with my community, explaining Lebanese events and holidays, and seeing how everybody is curious and listening attentively. Volunteering was most definitely one of my highlights this month, from visiting children with cancer, preparing food for the less fortunate, organizing charity stores, and volunteering at local festivals. Since I arrived, my goal has been to try everything new and stay involved with my community. This goal has kept me busy, and I haven’t been homesick because of all the different things happening around me.
I know that this month has been well spent. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next with open arms. It has been a month since my departure, a month away from my parents, a month where I laid the foundation for my entire year. I realized that I’m stronger than I thought, and I am discovering myself in the process. I still have nine months left and I’ll enjoy every moment of it!