YES Programs



South African Student's Winning Experience

Rsa Nicola Hanekom Diving Article2

Nicola Hanekom from South Africa (YES 2018-2019, hosted by AYA in Loveland, CO) was reluctant to try diving at first, but now she's headed to the state-level diving competition! Her achievements were recently featured in the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

"Before leaving her home in Cape Town, South Africa for Loveland, Nicola Hanekom told her parents she was going to be a sponge.

Isn't that was an exchange program is all about? Be open to each and every new experience provided to her in the short time she was in the United States. Her motto, she said, was to say yes to everything. Then the plane landed.

"I'm just going to try everything. Then when I got here, I was like, yeah, I don't want to try anything," she said before diving practice on Tuesday. "I'm here, now I'm done. I'm not going to do anything.

"The first day of school, it was horrible. It was so bad. I had no friends. Yeah, I didn't understand the things in the class, and I wanted to cry." Eventually, her mood began to change. She made friends at a football game, and she had made a promise to her host sister, Loveland diver Olivia Brock, early in her stay. One she hoped Brock had forgotten.

"She said, are you still going to do diving, and I felt too bad to say no, so I was like, yeah, sure," Hanekom said. "Once we bought the suit, there was no turning back."

Saying yes to Brock has turned out to be the highlight of her stay in Loveland. She had never been on a diving board before, but she had done gymnastics. As of Saturday, she's a qualifier for the 4A state meet, which begins with diving preliminaries Thursday morning at Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center."

Nicola told the Herald, "I cannot explain the feeling. My heart was beating so fast. It was the best moment, by far, here in America."

Click here to read the full article. Great job, Nicola!


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Go to to submit YOUR story about how living with a host family or hosting a YES student has changed your life!

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