By Nour Obeid (YES 2018-2019, Lebanon, hosted by AFS in Geneva, IL)
I have never felt time pass by so quickly. But, when you are fulfilling a dream that you never thought you could achieve, months pass just like seconds while you are trying to accomplish as much as you can. Coming to the United States was my dream. This experience has made me a whole new person: more self-confident, independent, braver, and stronger.
Whenever I try to think of one thing about this experience that I can talk about, tons of other things pop into my mind. Starting off with volunteering, which I tried here for the first time. I reached 100 hours, and I will never stop helping people or sacrificing my time for those in need. It taught me how great our impact on other people’s lives can be, and how just by simple actions, we can make their lives better. I learned the meaning of giving without limits when I saw smiles on their grateful faces. I volunteered at homeless shelters, school, and church, and I can’t describe how satisfied I felt by the end.
The goal of exchange is to share cultures, which I hadn’t experienced before I came here. It really makes me appreciate my culture and my country (Lebanon) and learn more about it by seeing it from other people’s perspectives. I did 43 presentations and I can’t tell you how happy I was in each one of them, answering different questions and seeing students impressed by who I am and where I come from. My main goal was to destroy the stereotypes and barriers that people have about not only my country but the whole region. After doing the presentations, I won a free trip to Orlando, Florida to attend the Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) Interfaith and Intercultural Conference.
It was the greatest and the most powerful experience I’ve had in my whole life. I learned about other religions and went to different places of worship. I realized that religion must unite us because acceptance is the main key to live together and love each other. I also got to learn about issues in the whole world and how every part of the world is struggling and we all seek peace. I made friends from 18 different countries in Disney World, where the conference was held. As we were all sitting together in the same room, I learned that we can be leaders and we can connect the whole world to create peace. We are the new generation and we can not only have a small impact on the world, but rather, change the whole world and make it a better place. I am more than thankful for attending such an important conference and my first goal for when I go back home is to organize a BUBW conference in my country.
At school, I am currently a member in several clubs including International Club, French Club (since my second language is French), and Key Club, which gives us community service opportunities. I also joined the Track and Field team for the indoor season to experience what it is like to be on a sports team. I made lots of friends and I always try to do new activities to take advantage of this wonderful year.