By Chahenda Marsaoui, (YES 2016 – 2017, hosted by ASSE in Hilltop Lakes, TX)
Since I came back to Tunisia in June 2017, I knew I wanted to share all the fun experiences I had during my exchange year with my local community.
My friends and I decided to start a club called, ‘Grow Local Economies,’ at our university, the University of Legal Political and Social Sciences of Tunis. We sought sponsorship from the Rotary Club El Menzah, and our club is now a Rotaract Club. After the Rotary Club granted us sponsorship, it was time to think about our first event as an organization.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I felt nostalgic about my first Valentine’s Day while on the YES Program. At my host school, Normangee High School, I saw clubs hold fundraising sales such as roses and sending letters. It was exciting to have someone come to you with a flower just to let you know that you are loved. Students offered flowers even to the teachers, which is not very common to do so here in Tunisia. I really loved the fact of everyone sharing love, which also helped support the club. So for our club in Tunisia, we decided to make our first event a Valentine’s theme food sale and photo booth. While preparing for the event, Carson, my host brother shared his mother’s cookies and cupcakes recipes with me!
On February 12, our club had everything ready. The photo booth looked pretty, and the food table was covered in treats. We waited for students to come out of class and have a sweet break with their loved ones. Both students and professors came to our Valentine’s Day booth! One of my main observations during my exchange year was how horizontal and friendly the relationships between the teachers and the students are in the US. I believe that we also need to have a close relationship with our professors in Tunisia to get the most out of education.
While giving the notes out, every single person smile and thanked us. I even had one professor who asked to take a picture of me and my friend. The food sale did great and people enjoyed taking pictures at our photo booth. I felt grateful to everyone who helped us and shared their love, from the Dean of our university and the professors and students who supported us and bought some of our goodies, to my host brother who helped me with the recipe, and to the precious memories I made during my exchange year.