YES Programs



Pursuing My Goals After YES

YES alumna, Natali, standing in front of green mountains.

By Natali Gbele (YES 2014 - 2015, Israel (Arab Communities), placed with IRIS in Boone, IA)

The biggest lesson I learned from my exchange year is how big of an impact one can have. I lived in a very small town in Iowa. Being the first Palestinian to have ever lived there, I was able to create an impression that will hopefully last a lifetime (much like how Iowa left such an impression on me). One of the first things we are told in the program is that we are ambassadors to our people, and I agree with that. I was able to build bridges between my culture and my community in Iowa. As the community in Iowa grows and develops, I hope that they will take in what I shared about my culture and pass it on, just like how I still talk about my wonderful experience in Iowa to this day.

My experience in the U.S. taught me a lot about initiative—about taking the first step and creating a platform for your own goals. I currently work at the Refugee Law Clinic in Munich, which is a student-run organization that provides legal consultation in asylum and immigration law. While I did not create the Refugee Law Clinic Munich, I was able to start a couple of internal projects for the clinic that helped us improve our training program. I believe that my experience in the U.S. taught me how to take on such leadership roles and to be able to pursue my goals. 

Natali sitting on the floor next to a young child looking at a picture book.

I have been active as a legal consultant since 2019 and I was elected first chair of the board in May 2020. As a legal consultant, I help refugees with their asylum cases in Germany. As first chair, I represent the organization and make sure it is run efficiently. My biggest takeaways from working at the law clinic is how the legal system (not just in Germany) can do so much better to make itself accessible. Not just for refugees, but for everyone. Almost every average person has a hard time understanding the legal stance for any situation they are in, whether it's for a job, a lease or any contract. However, the average person has in most cases enough resources to access this information (through a lawyer or online research). For refugees and asylum seekers, this is an even bigger challenge, as most of them have nneithr the financial resources nor the internet accessibility to overcome these hurdles. The Refugee Law Clinic provides a bridge for those who don’t have access, and I am very privileged to be a part of it. 

Natali standing with five other YES alumni. Everyone is wearing red YES t-shirts.

Up until recently, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my degree in Law. I have, however, become very interested in the academic field. That’s why I plan on applying for a PhD and hopefully work in the academic field, like becoming a professor or something similar. If possible, I would like to take on pro bono cases in the future as a side job, in order to pursue my goal of making the legal system more accessible.