The YES program represents a year of growth, new friendships, and memories for alumni. After their year in the United States, YES alumni recognize the importance of sharing their stories to encourage younger students to apply for this unique opportunity. Three YES alumni from Gaza have shared some details from their personal journeys on the YES program and what they learned along the way.
Amna Abusamhadana (YES 2018-2019, Gaza, placed by World link in Lubbock, TX)
Every moment in the United States was priceless, especially the moments when I learned or experienced something new. For example, I had the chance to experience snow for the first time. Since it does not snow in Gaza, my host family and I traveled to New Mexico to ice skate! My host dad also took me to a huge fair in Texas where I went on many rides and played carnival games for the first time. All of these activities were so much fun! I learned the value of time, and that sometimes you must push yourself forward to do something new. It might be scary in the beginning, but you will feel incredibly happy and relieved once you do it! Use every moment to learn something new.
As an alumna, I believe it is my role to tell people about this amazing program and encourage students to apply. The YES program helps shape your personality to become a more mature and open-minded person.
Mahmoud Shakshak (YES 2018-2019, Gaza, placed by AFS in Lee's Summit, MO)
I always brag to my friends about how my host family and I were the perfect match. They're my second family now. One of the best yet hardest moments was on the last day with my host family. On my last day, we returned to the same restaurant we visited after I arrived at the airport. We ordered the same meal and had a pleasant time. During this meal, we cried for a bit and comforted each other with the hope that we would see each other again.
Most of the lessons that I learned from my exchange year were about interacting with strangers at social events. I have never been a shy person, but the YES program left me with so many new friends and a big global network of acquaintances.
One of my favorite things to do as a YES alumnus is to volunteer at Amideast and meet older YES alumni to share our experiences and heartfelt stories.
Salim Alwazir (YES 2018-2019, Gaza, placed by AYA in Woodhull, NY)
I participated in the YES program for the 2018-2019 academic year, and during that time I improved my English language skills. The impact this program had on my personal, social, and academic life is astonishing. I was placed in upstate New York with one of the best host families ever, and they provided me a unique experience filled with adventures and excitement.
What made my YES experience especially thrilling was my group of friends. My friends helped me stay calm during my culture shock phase and they celebrated me when I achieved new progress. My friends also encouraged me to pursue my bachelor’s degree at Gettysburg College.
My favorite activity during the YES year was volunteering. While participating in community service activities, I met new people. It was amazing to work with a group of people to help others that are in need. I was also pleased to talk about my country and my culture through the many presentations I gave on Palestine. The new skills that I gained through volunteering, like leadership and open-mindedness, have helped me grow as a person.
Read another story from Amna’s YES year here.