By Zainah Alamad (YES 2021-2022, Jordan, placed by Aspect in Lacey, WA)
Looking back at my exchange year, school sports were a big part of my journey in the U.S. I played soccer during the fall semester and tennis in the spring. I always played soccer at home and had a great season with my team in the U.S. I had never played tennis but decided I was going to give it a try, and it was an amazing experience.
I never imagined playing tennis because it’s not a very popular sport in Jordan. At first it was challenging for me, as I had never even held a racket before. The best part was getting introduced to the sport - learning the rules, understanding the fundamentals, eventually falling in love with it and wanting to improve every day.
Playing school sports while on exchange is one of the best ways to meet people, make friends, and share your culture. Sharing your culture is what being a YES exchange student is all about. Students and coaches on my team learned so much about Jordan. Everyone was so eager to learn, and my tennis team had three other exchange students from Georgia, Germany, and France. Everyone was very interested and asked about cultural differences.
Sharing my culture and teaching people about it is one of the things I enjoy most. It is an incredible feeling to know you are representing your country. I would advise every exchange student to play sports, even if you haven’t played before. It can be a challenging but a great experience. Playing sports at my school helped me so much throughout my exchange year and made the experience extremely memorable - the games, the practices, the people, everything.
Exchange never really comes to an end. Sharing stories and memories you have lived through with people you love back at home is the best. When I came home to Jordan, my friends and family were so excited to hear all about my second home, Washington. I talked about school spirit, sports, my host family, and how it felt being an exchange student. I talked about the ups and downs and, most importantly, how much the year meant to me. A part of me is still in Washington, and I would do this year over again a million times.