By Rihem Sassi (YES 2019 – 2020, Tunisia, hosted by ACES in Harrisburg, SD)
I’ve been in South Dakota for one month and I’m loving it already! My host community has been so nice to me, and everyone is eager to get to know me, and interested to learn more about Tunisia. The first time I went to church with my host family was on the day of Eid al Adha, an important Muslim hoIiday, so I wore a traditional Tunisian dress. Everyone kept commenting on how beautiful my dress was and asking me about my home country. After prayer service, I had coffee and treats with a few elderly ladies who chatted with me about Eid al Adha, and Tunisian culture.
The first day of school was hard, as I was the only exchange student in my high school, but it’s getting better every day. I love my classes, and I’m really grateful for my school administration and teachers who were ready to support me. What I really learned on my first day of school is that it’s so important to seek help no matter what and to never be scared to ask! I’m getting involved in school clubs and activities drama club. I auditioned for a musical, and guess what? I got cast as the role of Rapunzel! It’s going to be a busy year for sure, but everything is worth trying.
After hours of talking, we went home and I made a Tunisian dish called, “kamounia,” and celebrated Eid in the best way possible with the best people ever! I’m so grateful for my host family, they’re so open, helpful, funny and so kind. My heart is bursting with love because of their unconditional care. My host family has taught me so much about America, and I keep learning more every single day.
I already started volunteering with Harrisburg’s local food pantry, where I volunteer every Tuesday. I’m volunteering at church too, and last Sunday, I cooked traditional Tunisian food for breakfast. I prepared bsisa, tajine, and Tunisian baked bread dipped in olive oil with dates - it was a very good experience for me! Everyone kept asking me about the food I prepared, and I was more than happy to answer their curious questions. As you see, I’m trying to make the best of exchange year, to make a difference in my community and to represent Tunisia, and the best is yet come.