By: Yara Hamad (YES 2017–2018, Kuwait, hosted by World Link in Mascoutah, IL)
“What is your favorite memory as an exchange student?” From the day I started my junior year at Mascoutah high school to this day, I struggle to find an answer to this frequently asked question. Sometimes I think it is because I want my answer to be so worthy of the question; I want to carefully select a memory that would resonate with my listeners. Or maybe, it is the abundance of memories, new experiences and people I met that makes it so hard to choose. In the end, I believe it is because of how profound the memories are — especially the ones we can't put in words.
I have come to the conclusion that my best memory is a feeling. It is the bond I had with so many people to whom I was a stranger with a funny accent at first. From my chemistry teacher's support and conversations with my physics teacher, to late night talks with my host mother, car rides with my host father and night prayers with my host sister. These are the memories I hold onto the most.
I am aware that to a reader or a listener these are mundane daily activities, but to me they were the times that made living 7,000 miles away from home still feel like home. Now that I am on the other end of the seven thousand miles, I still smile at the thought of the people who went from strangers to the best support system a 16-year-old exchange student can ever ask for. Now I hope that I can carry and spread the love and support they gave me. My connection with the family I made in the United States is still strong and keeps the memories more alive than ever. I still call my host mother "mom" and she still calls me "sunshine.”