by Abraham Kpirkai (YES Ghana 2018-19, hosted with ASSE in Vernonia, OR)
Back in my home country of Ghana, I never really had much interest in sports. I never really tried so I just assumed I was bad at sports and gave in to the common stereotype that sports guys weren't smart enough. Then my year living in the US on the YES program changed my thinking about a lot of things. At Vernonia High School, I realized that sports were as important as anything in the school and I even ended up loving basketball and track more than anything else. I ended up wishing the basketball and track seasons never ended!
When I first joined basketball, I knew nothing about the sport, so I made up my mind to quit. I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of all those parents in the gym. I decided to stay in basketball after encouragement from my host parents. I wasn't the best basketball player at the end of the season, but I wished it never ended because I developed a deep love for the sport. I enjoyed hanging out with my teammates, and if I could reverse time, I'd move it back to the point where we started practice for the first time in the gym. I learned a lot from that experience and it taught me an important life-lesson: instead of making decisions based on what people might say, take the risk of doing it, you'll never know, one day you'll love the fact that you did it. The biggest regrets I would have had would be not playing basketball. Right now it's still my best and favorite sport and I wish to continue to play even in college
Track was also one of my favorites. The best thing about track was that I got to hang out with different people after my events and cheer others on. My track coach made my exchange year one of a kind. I lived every single day trying to get better and make him happy through impressive performance at any given track meet. My exchange year made me realize that I wasn't just a guy who did well in the classroom, but also in the field. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be a YES student, and grateful for the opportunity to unleash my true potential.