By Shifa Sajjad (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by Ayusa in Phoenix, AZ)
Who knew that it takes only an exchange year to fulfill all your childhood wishes, dreams and desires, leading you to become a bigger and a better version of yourself. After coming on my exchange year I got the chance to have a second home, a new group of friends, and another high school experience. Even though it has just been four months since I came to the U.S., it is safe to say that these months are the most beautiful moments of my life filled with tons of colors, joy, and bliss.
I get to experience life in an American high school which is just like " High School Musical" just maybe without the singing and dancing. I finally got to understand the craze behind American football, from attending my school games and watching it on television with my host family. I also spoke at three of my school assemblies and am part of the student council. I got to audition and take part in my first high school theater play "The Radium Girls" and went to the Thespian festival, which gave me a chance to not only learn more about the theater world but also make countless friends that I will adore forever. Guess I can call myself a theater kid now!
Outside of school, I have ventured into American cuisine and I love Dairy Queen's ice cream and pumpkin spice goodies. I also got to visit the Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley with my host family along with witnessing dinosaur evidence and even collecting dinosaur teeth. I also went to the Arizona State Fair and watched rodeo shows. Funnel cakes and fried ice cream are my new favorites.
This year I was able to experience one of my childhood dreams, which was celebrating Halloween. I dressed up with a friend from school and went trick or treating around the neighborhood. It felt magical seeing how the houses were decorated and how everyone was dressed up. We also made caramel apples, which were absolutely delicious. Halloween was everything the younger version of me used to fantasize about.
During International Education Week, I gave presentations about my country to classes in school and dressed up in my traditional attire. I gave Pakistani currency to a lot of students as a prize for sharing three facts about my country. I also cooked a local dish called Chana Chaat, which is a snack made with white chickpeas, spices, herbs, onions, tomatoes and lemon. It was really heartwarming to see people's enthusiasm to learn about my country. Moreover, I felt highly honored because not everyone gets a chance to be an ambassador for their country. Thanksgiving became a really important holiday because it made the people around me know how grateful and thankful I am for them. I made thank you cards for my host family, my friends and my teachers. I also made bags of essentials for homeless people to give out to them. I also got to bake an apple pie for the first time and try so many staple Thanksgiving foods which were absolutely delicious. I will truly adore and cherish these people and memories forever.