By Taha Ferfir (YES 2018-2019, Libya, placed by AYUSA in San Antonio, TX)
When people ask me where I see myself in five years, they think it's going to be a typical answer, like pursuing studies and getting a job. My answer is instead quite the unexpected – I want to be like Dora the Explorer, searching and learning about other cultures and people, enhancing my leadership skills, and making an impactful change on the communities around me.
I am Taha Ferfir, a YES alumnus from 2018-2019, and I come from a country in North Africa, Libya. I was placed for my exchange year in San Antonio, Texas. A few words that can describe my experience on the YES program would be super, amazing, spectacular, eye-opening, life-changing, roller coaster, and a life journey that never ends. My year in the U.S. helped me explore my passions in life. I tried lots of different fields that shaped who I am, like participating in art club, graphic design, and anatomy and physiology. I also got to participate in the Workshop for Youth Leaders in English Teaching (WYLET), an intensive training program for YES and FLEX students who aspire to be English teachers. Now I am a medicine student, freelancer graphic designer, and the Projects Manager for Libya's YES alumni association, where I facilitate trainings and workshops.
Along all of that, I learned how to make and sustain life-long relationships. I am happy to say that I now have a family in Texas who is willing to support me, assist me, and love me no matter what!
My eagerness to explore led me to participating in YES. I applied twice before I was accepted. Though the first time didn’t work out, I decided to work on myself and apply again the following year. That year, I got to be a finalist, and I was so happy to get to be an explorer and an ambassador of my country.
As I walked across the stage on my graduation day at the end of my exchange year, I could hear this loud voice saying “Tahaaaa!” This was the echo of my host dad, Mark Outing, who encouraged me throughout the whole year, kept me focused on achieving high grades, and made sure that we spent quality time together. Saying goodbye to him on my last day wasn’t easy. I never thought that I would have such a strong bond and connection with people who were strangers to me, to feel their love and eventually call them family.
I hope that every YES student can experience this type of bond during their YES year. This is what lead me to apply to be an alumni instructor. I was eager to support the new YES students as they prepared to embark on this exciting journey.
Here I am today, five years after participating in the YES program. I enjoyed the company of many countries, backgrounds, and ethnicities trying to make the best out of their year. The arrival orientations took a lot of work to be successful, and the orientation staff poured all our energy and creativity into making this experience a lasting memory for the students. I served with brilliant alumni from Tanzania, Lebanon, Albania, and Bangladesh, each of whom added so much energy and knowledge to the team.
In addition to teaching and instructing, we also monitored students, welcomed them during arrivals, helped facilitate registration, and kept students on schedule. It was definitely a lot of work, but it was worth all the effort to see the orientations be such a success.
Now, after teaching at the orientations, I can say “hurry up” in seven different languages. These arrival orientations helped me gain new experiences, meet new people, make new friends, and most importantly make new memories! It was the highlight of 2023, if not my whole life. The orientations helped me learn more about other countries, alumni activities, and my own potential.