By Etnik Doda (YES 2021-2022, Kosovo, placed by BFF in Raleigh, NC)
Applying to the YES program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Through this journey, I learned so much about myself. I discovered my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses, and what makes me unique. I also gained new experiences and did things I never thought I'd be able to do, such as volunteering.
Due to the requirements of the YES program, I needed to find a way to complete volunteer hours while on my exchange in the US. I wasn’t sure how I would earn the hours because, due to the lack of opportunity, I had not volunteered a lot before coming to the US. However, while going to my host high school, I saw how important volunteering is to Americans and how easy it was to find volunteer opportunities. My host family was very supportive and even volunteered with me and helped me find different places to do various types of work.
When volunteering, I felt fulfilled with my work and time, so I told myself that I would volunteer more in my country when I returned. I planned to invite friends and family so that we could be a change in our community. Therefore, after I returned from America, I became a City Representative (CR) of Deçan. During my time as a CR, the event I enjoyed the most was the New Year-themed activity for students with disabilities. At the event, we made art together with the students, had conversations, and shared many laughs. Their happiness brought me happiness, and I realized that the honor of making people happy is what makes me want to volunteer more. My desire to help others and make them happy was something I discovered about myself while I was in the U.S. and will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.