by Atharva Kolhe, YES 2018-19, India, hosted with CCI in Carthage, NY
It's been nine months since I left home in India to come to the US. Going on an exchange was definitely the best decision I ever made. It's amazing how people you didn’t know can become such a crucial part of your life. It's wonderful when you meet a bunch of other exchange students from different countries and realize how close you are to each other and how many things you have in common. That's how the world starts to feel smaller. To be honest, the YES program changed my life. I have become more independent, mature, open-minded and willing to help others.
Along with these things, my exchange year gave me the valuable gift of volunteering. During my exchange year, I volunteered at many different places. It allowed me to connect to my host community and make it a better place. Even helping with the smallest tasks can make a real difference in this world. Volunteering also helped me make new friends, boost my social skills and expand my network. Every single time I helped someone, it gave me a sense of accomplishment, achievement and self-confidence to try something new. I have become more empathetic towards my community.
Some of the volunteering initiatives I was part of include the “30 hours famine” initiative, where we fasted for 30 hours as a fundraiser and awareness raising for hunger issues in Africa. Last month, I won a scholarship from my hosting organization, CCI Greenheart, for a community service trip to Hawaii, where we volunteered helping the homeless with the Institute of Human Services and did a beach cleanup project with “808 cleanups.” I’ve completed 105 hours of community service so far.
And I’m looking forward to helping people in my home country when I return to India next month. Once again, thanks to the YES program, US State Department, AFS and my amazing Greenheart exchange coordinators for changing our lives. YES!!! You Can!!!