By Abdullah Alaidroos (YES 2015–2016, Saudi Arabia, placed by ACES in Manteca, CA)
I was 17 years old when I was selected to be an exchange student for the YES program. I was unsure of what to expect from this opportunity. Moving to a state as diverse as California opened my eyes to new perspectives and gave me a greater appreciation for inclusion. I still remember my first day as a senior at Manteca High School and how I was fascinated by its size and cultural inclusivity. Being from Saudi Arabia, a country that most people in the Western Hemisphere do not completely understand, has always motivated me to change some of the stereotypes and highlight shared values and beliefs.
I was hosted in Manteca in 2015, a time when people were busy preparing for the U.S. presidential elections the following year. It was certainly an enriching experience to listen to people with different points of view and political ideas regarding the complex American political system. My host family members are some of the nicest and friendliest people you can ever meet. I also participated in International Educational Week, when I presented about my country to elementary school students all around northern California. At the end of the school year, I was fortunate enough to graduate from Manteca High School with the highest honors.
I returned to Saudi Arabia carrying new values of inclusion and social engagement. Today, I am close to reaching my goal to become a medical doctor, and I am one of 60 people selected to represent youth in the Youth 20 (Y20) Summit in Italy this year. The conference allows delegates from G20 countries to gather, discuss ideas, and put forth recommendations concerning the global agenda discussed in the G20 Leaders’ Summit. I also hold a diploma in Global Communications, and my work involves building bridges with youth from around the world to work together. My advice to all young people is to always actively engage within communities and to raise their voices. I also suggest that they have an open mind and to be aware of what is happening in the world.