YES Programs



The Fight to Challenge Yourself

YES student smiles on wrestling mat

By Taghreed Iftikhar (YES 2021-2022, Pakistan, placed by ACES in Chico,CA)

At the beginning of my exchange experience, I decided to join the wrestling team at my school California. Now that the wrestling season is coming to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on my journey. When I first arrived in the U.S., I wanted to join a sports team at my school because alumni are always saying that sports help exchange students make new friends - and they were right! But I also believe that joining a sports team does so much more than that. Teams teach values that help you grow and prepare for life. In the U.S., all of my friends and host siblings were doing different sports, so I decided to do a sport as well. 

The reason I chose wrestling was mainly because there weren’t tryouts and I didn’t have to run which was great. I wanted to put myself out there, challenge myself, and see my potential within the sport. Many people thought that I couldn’t do wrestling and at times even I thought I couldn’t do it. However, wrestling taught me not only how to tackle my opponent but also how to get out of difficult situations and think through problems. It taught me to take responsibility for my actions, work hard until you achieve your goals, and to not give up even when you think you are going to be defeated. 

With every injury, every bruise, I became even stronger and tougher. Wrestling is a difficult sport and every time I stepped on the mat I had mixed feelings. I was scared. I was nervous. I thought I couldn’t do it. At the beginning of the season, I thought I might quit. Every week I would say to myself, “just one more week and then I’ll give up.” But when I won my first match, I told myself, “No, Taghreed, you can’t give up now.” I kept working hard and tried to be good at the sport and even made it to sections. 

My wrestling journey has made me believe that nothing is impossible. It gives me hope knowing that I can do anything if I try and when I believe in myself. After this experience, I’ll continue to remind myself to try new things and decide for myself if I like it. After all, you can never tell the depth of the water until you step into it.