YES Programs



My Experience of a Lifetime

YES student, Imge, standing with five other students holding up country flags.

By Imge Ciftci (YES 2021-2022, Turkey, placed by CCI in Lakeville, MN)

Hello 2021-2022 YES Students!

I am Imge from Turkey. I am placed in Minnesota — the land of 10,000 lakes. You can call me Immie. This is what everyone calls me here. I would love to talk about my experience in the U.S. so far, but first I want to give you a quick review of how I ended up here.

There have been ups and downs for 2 years for me and some of the YES students who were deferred from last year. It was so hard to know that you could be living your dreams at that moment, instead of dealing with your daily life problems in your home country. But now, here we are in the U.S.! I still catch myself not believing that I am actually here.

After this long wait, I was placed in the best family ever! We started to communicate during the summer, so I already knew that I was going to have an amazing year.

My journey started in New York, the city that never sleeps. Everything looked like it was from a movie. I saw my first yellow school bus, which I was going to use throughout my exchange year. I saw the skyscrapers shining under the bright sun. Even the weather was different.

Then I had another flight to finally go to my new home. Of course, I couldn’t sleep at all during those flights because I was too excited. I remember how excited I was when I was walking towards my host family. I was pretty sure that I was going to faint, especially when I saw the lovely sign that they had prepared to greet me.

Imge posing with 5 members of her host family. Everyone is dressed up in fancy dresses and suits.
Imge with her host family

After going to my host family, I met my local coordinator. It is so good to know that there are many people out there who are willing to help me throughout my exchange year. In the following days, I had to deal with jet lag, but I also did the coolest thing ever! The day after I arrived, I volunteered at a hot air balloon event. I helped to set up the hot air balloon and I had the chance to actually ride in it. I think this is one of the coolest volunteering activities a person can ever do! At the end of the month, I had already completed 21 hours of volunteering. I love to show my appreciation to my community!

In the following days, I met a lot of exchange students and their host families. I enjoyed every minute of these visits. I got to experience different lifestyles and realized that everyone’s experience is unique. Once again, I felt so excited for myself and all the other exchange students in the world.

A group of people standing around a hot air ballon.
Volunteering at a hot air balloon festival

When it was time to start school, I was the most excited and the most nervous person at the same time. But I realized very soon that there’s nothing to be afraid of. When people found out that I am an exchange student, they asked questions about my country, and I loved to answer them. It is always fun to find out about the cultural differences between Turkey and the U.S.

I didn’t realize before what the challenges of an exchange student would really be like — getting used to a new home, language, school, people, rules, a new country far from your own. But it wasn’t hard for me to get used to my new life here. I set up some rules for myself to make this process go easier. And I would recommend that every exchange student take a look at them in case it’s helpful for you. 

My first and biggest rule was actually my host family’s rule, which is to be kind and polite. Even if I make mistakes, if I do it in a polite and kind way and try to fix it, I will be okay. Spend time with your host family; you are together only for a year. The end of the year will arrive in the blink of an eye. Show your appreciation. They volunteered to do this; how amazing is that! And finally, be open to everything — new ideas, new people, new experiences.

I am sure that this will be the best year of your life with its ups and downs and unique experiences! Try to be a good ambassador of your country and have fun!