By Malik Alshin (YES 2021-2022, Libya, placed by World Link in Littleton, CO)
On YES appreciation day, we were reminded that there is plenty to be thankful for, not only for one day, but for every day of the year. The YES program literally transforms lives, providing the opportunity to live beyond home limitations across continents and oceans.
When you first arrive as a YES student, as you take your first steps in the airport and your host community, it feels indescribable. Everything is new and interesting: the roads, the cars, the buildings, the food, and believe it or not, even though you speak it, as oddly as it may seem, the language feels new to some degree.
As the months go on, it starts to hit you. You start getting used to things, and you realize that you actually have to do homework. As things get less exciting, because they are not as new and interesting any longer, what keeps the journey exciting is the people. Starting where everything starts, your host family. Strangers when you come, family when you leave.
Once you board a plane to leave home, you start a process of exploring, adventuring, learning, and growing. As this process goes on through the months, your host family is always there to provide love and support you through all of it. You start meeting new people, young and old, similar and different. Strangers that you end up calling friends. Schoolmates, teammates, teachers, and community members. Having those small yet essential conversations with the people you meet, being nice and approachable, is key.
The mistake some students make, which they later regret, is not taking full advantage of the chances that come their way, or not seeking to make ones if none come their way. They avoid going ALL in and investing the time and energy to meet new people, because it does require some effort to do that. Establishing, maintaining, and growing relationships is not a subconscious or automatic process.
Regardless of what it takes, the reward is worth it. Once you go home, you will miss a lot of things. The activities, the fun classes, the hangouts, the food, the late night and early morning walks, the different routine and lifestyle. But certainly, you will miss your host family, the neighborhood kids, friends, teachers, coaches, the security guy at the front desk, the lady at the local center... the people, more than anything.