Vy Ashika Shaheen (YES 2019-2020, India, hosted by ACIE in Burleson, TX)
As an exchange student, I believe that it’s our goal to advocate for global peace and celebrate cultural differences. Exchange programs such as YES support these goals. These programs promote unity, peace, and love. They help us connect our lives with others, realize we are all one, and help us find something new within ourselves.
When I was a YES exchange student in America, every single person I met taught me something new and different. Connecting with another family is something beyond awesome. People here are different in culture, but have the same values. They accepted me into their world as I am. They respected my values, my opinion, my culture, and my differences.
Stepping into a place where you barely know anyone will be a challenge, of course. But that’s what this experience is about. It pushes you into situations you’ve never encountered before. You can’t expect success as soon as you step in. You might fall down, but the next day will take you to another step. You fall down again, but you get up better.
The luckiest thing here is you are not alone. You have so many people to support you and love you for who you are. All these people you meet want you to experience great things. All the relationships you make here will be life-long relationships.
I personally feel that I have developed and improved my leadership and communication skills. I was very shy when I first came here, but I decided to go out of my comfort zone and explore. Now I know how to confidently communicate and start conversations. I became even more creative by joining the art club at school. I developed more leadership skills by becoming involved in my host community. Volunteering really made me a more responsible person and helped me understand different perspectives. It made me realize that I really want to start volunteering in my home community too.
For future exchange students, I would say to be ready to face anything. Have no expectations. You will be required to make independent decisions. Just go for everything. Say yes to everything and be open-minded. Don’t compare your exchange experience with other exchange students' experiences; each experience is unique.
This is a test for yourself. It challenges your adaptability and flexibility. It's like an emotional rollercoaster. Whatever it is, put your hands up, stay positive, and enjoy the ride. It has its own ups and downs, but enjoy every single moment and don’t give up. Everything is going to be fine.