By Salma Tbayshat (YES 2020–2021, Jordan, placed virtually with ACES in Toledo, OH)
Thanks to my PO, I was able to attend the Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) Virtual Conference in March 2021. Launched in 2006, BUBW provides exchange students and American high school students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to meet each other. Through leadership development, multicultural training, and interfaith dialogue, BUBW aims to break down the stereotypes and the barriers that lead to fear or hate of the “other.”
During BUBW I met Robin Lang, a volunteer from AFS. After BUBW, I became inspired to create country presentations for high school students in the United States. Robin supported the idea and so I coordinated the presentation with three of my friends from Lebanon, Georgia, and Poland. My friends were delighted to work with me on this idea. My friend Farah Almanasir also helped me with Jordan's presentation.
On April 8 and April 21, we gave successful presentations to two high schools in Illinois, Geneva High School and Kaneland High School. Robin is from Illinois and so she helped me contact teachers to organize the presentations. The American students were curious to know more about us and they enjoyed our discussions. In our presentations, we covered geography, culture, cuisine, currency, and systems of governance. I know it was a simple idea, but it ended up being a beneficial experience for everyone. My friends who helped me include peers from YES and the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX):
Farah Almanasir (YES, Jordan), Bashar Raydan (YES, Lebanon), Nino Patsuria (FLEX, Georgia) Pikria Tolordava (FLEX, Georgia), Maciej Olczyk (FLEX, Poland), and Alexandra Brzechwa (FLEX, Poland).
The YES program has prepared us to become future leaders, and our presentations are a small outcome to show what YES has taught us. Working on these presentations taught me that teamwork, organization, ideas, and communication can be achieved — even virtually with people from around the world. After working on this project, I learned new ways of thinking, working, and discussing ideas. The most important thing is that I had the chance to build cultural bridges not only between the U.S. and Jordan, but with three other countries too.
Even though we presented to a small community, my peers and I know that great things happen by leaving an impact — it’s not always about the numbers. We’re even thinking about starting a routine project where we continue to give presentations and add new country representatives for different communities around the United States. Finally, my friend circle is even bigger, and now I know amazing staff members working with the YES Program.
Farah Almanasir (YES 2020–2021, Jordan, virtually placed with AFS-USA in Chicago, IL)
Bashar Raydan (YES 2020-2021, Lebanon, virtually placed with AFS-USA in Carlsbad, CA)