By Bhoomika Khanna (YES 2022-23, India, placed by AFS-USA in Topeka, KS)
“An exchange year is not a year in a life but a life in a year.” I entirely agree with this statement. The number of memories I made in these last few months is way more than I’ve ever made in any previous ten months of my life. My name is Bhoomika Khanna and I am from India, hosted in Topeka, Kansas in the heart of America. As my exchange year recently ended, all the beautiful flashbacks have been running through my mind and everything feels like a dream.
My exchange experience helped me reach a better understanding of what really matters to me, and my appreciation increased drastically for the people, places, and relationships I made here and have in my home country. I met so many people during my exchange, had the best conversations, and learned so much from so many people. I’m so grateful for all of this. This year made me a better version of myself.
One of my best memories is telling other people about my country. I loved teaching how to write in Hindi, and their reaction to how beautiful it looked, the taste of authentic Indian food in food parties, and the beauty of Indian clothes. During all my presentations in the classrooms, students saw a side of the world they didn’t know much about, and the fact they had a person to link that information with, made my presentation so much better.
Everyone in my host community was inclusive and accepting. They didn't make me feel like an outsider. I volunteered at an ice-skating rink for 3 months during winter and completed 110 volunteer hours. I met some awesome people while volunteering. I experienced my first negative Celsius temperatures with them. We had Mexican hot chocolate some nights and cool Coke on others. We went skating together, laughed while slipping on the ice, and showed off our bad ice hockey skills to each other. They taught me some important life lessons I didn’t know I needed, and they all will remain precious to me.
I developed a passion for gardening with my host mom when we volunteered together at a community garden. I continued that passion in my other volunteering projects and learned much more about planting and gardening. I discovered that I have a green thumb and really do love playing with mud and seeing life growing from soil into beautiful buds of flowers and fruit.
The program and my organization did so much for us as exchange students to ensure our safety and make the year filled with memories. I can never talk enough about the fun I had with other exchange students, learning about the civics and history of a country like America. It made me realize how every individual is important and can make a change if they wish to! I cherish all the conversations and friendships I made there which I hope will stay with me for life.
As a proud YES alumna, I consider myself a global ambassador who embraces diversity. I will remain grateful to all the people who made it possible for me to have this experience and try my best to give back to this amazing community. It will stay with me forever.
And as everyone said THIS IS JUST A BEGINNING!