By Yasmine Hawa (YES 2018-2019, Cameroon, hosted by AFS in Mequon, Thiensville, WI)
My first time ever on stage, I felt like I could not talk. I am a very quiet person, but being on the YES program has helped me break out of my shell a lot. One of the first things I did with my host family was watch Harry Potter on Broadway. It was really my first time hearing and learning about Broadway. Little did I know that this experience would foreshadow one of the essential experiences I had in the U.S.
As I began to settle into my new life in the U.S., the need to make friends arose. So I decided to audition for a play at my high school – "The Little Mermaid.” I prepared and reviewed my monologue and music – I felt ready. But, for the first time I had to talk in front of a group people; a group of people that I didn't really know. I told myself, "I am going to make it. I can do this. I have nothing to be afraid of, these people aren’t going to eat me." I recited my monologue and sang my song. My voice was trembling but I wanted to be in the show so I kept going. Once I had finished everyone clapped – they were cheering for me.
I am so glad I persevered, because I got the role of a princess, but more importantly, it was in this play that I met my best friends. That was just all I needed. By trying out for the play, I went out of my comfort zone. Through theater I started seeing a different version of me. We had three months of rehearsals and four days of performances. It was the most amazing thing I ever did in my life. As soon as I would finish classes, I would go to rehearsal, which usually ended around 7:30pm. Sometimes I felt like quitting, but I couldn’t, and I didn't; I kept going. And the first day of the show when I stepped on stage and sang my solo, I felt like I was flying; that feeling of accomplishment was like nothing else I had experienced before. The last day of the show I was asked to sign my name on the seniors' door. And I’m proud my name will forever be written on that door.
After seeing what happens when I step out of my comfort zone and interact with people, and share everything with them, I didn’t want to stop with the play. So I decided to join my school’s track team where I was doing shot put, which was also new to me. I went to practice everyday and trained with the other girls. Everyone was interested in knowing me. The first two weeks were rough for me. I was sore. My body was hurting. At my first meet I threw 18 feet and to cut the story short I ended the season with a personal record of 23 feet.
The beginning of my year was not easy at all. I had so many challenges but once I set my mind nothing else could stop me. This is just like riding a bicycle. You are bad at the beginning but once you know how to ride that’s it. But it does not mean you will never fall. And each time you fall you will learn and be more careful while riding. This year has been full of surprises for me. I don’t regret any of my decisions and if I had to do it again I would.
After accomplishing so much and also succeeding to complete my hundred hours of volunteering I will say my exchange year was a triumph.