YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
By Elsa Gashi (YES 2021-2022, Kosovo, placed by American Councils in Honolulu, Hawaii)
Being an exchange student is one the most ambitious dreams I’ve ever pursued. With hard work, I was able to attain this dream through the YES program. After finding out that I became a finalist and would receive the opportunity of a lifetime, I began to think that if somebody else saw the potential in me, I should also believe in my potential.
My exchange year was not easy, but it was the best year of my life. I experienced so many things that were out of my comfort zone and grew so much as a person. Living across the world from everyone and everything I had known and starting a new life in America came with many obstacles, but despite everything, returning my Kosovo life was harder than the first months of being in the US.
It’s interesting how, even in a short period of time, something can become such a big part of you. The people, the places, and the life in America became such a big part of me that I did all I could to take pieces from America to bring home so I would create something similar here as well. So, when I came back, I knew what to look for in a friend, I knew which way of living would make me happiest, and I knew I wanted to try new things. For example, the idea came to me to start a summer job. I saw how much teenagers were interested in working in the US, and it inspired me to do the same. Before living in the US, I never thought I would start a job at 17 years old.
Even though I was busy with everything else going in my life, I still wanted to be a part of YES because of the big change it made to my life, so I thought the best way was to become a city representative for Suhareka. Becoming part of a community of people who went through a similar experience as mine helped me emotionally when trying to readjust to life after my program. I could talk for days about my exchange experience, and others would understand me, and vice versa.
When I initially returned to Kosovo, I was feeling sad that my experience ended, but after I joined the YES alumni community, I realized that my YES experience had only just begun. Now, I have a big YES family here who are hard workers that want to see a change in our country. We all want work create a better future by engaging our community and by sharing the opportunity of the YES program. We are the future, and we will make a good future.