By Merima Muhic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, NC)
When talking about what symbolizes success, knowing that something has been around for ten years – and has been leaving a positive mark in people’s lives – sounds like an important milestone. This milestone happened on July 29-30, when we welcomed the newest (and our 10th!) generation back in the form of a re-entry in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This group of exchange students proudly transitioned into 16 new alumni, our largest generation yet. Alumni in Bosnia and Herzegovina take re-entries very seriously, since they are the perfect opportunity to meet other alumni and show them just how much they can impact their communities. The purpose of these seminars is to welcome students home, give them the opportunity to analyze their development during their year abroad, discuss problems they will face adjusting to life at home, and introduce them to the alumni association.
Throughout the first day, alumni had a chance to look back on their exchange years, understand what has changed, be introduced to the alumni community, talk about reverse culture shock, if and how it impacted them. During the reverse culture shock session, we also had a guest from the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cultural Attaché Holly Zardus, who talked about how important YES alumni are, serving as the young people who have acquired the tools and skills to carry out the changes needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
One part of the seminar that always gets the most attention is the alumni panel. This year we had eight amazing alumni from all generations come in and talk about their exchange years, what the alumni community means to them, and how they have managed to stay active throughout the years, despite being busy with school, work, and other activities. From simple projects such as clean ups, to large-scale projects like making a series of films with a feminist inspiration, older alumni have truly transferred their motivation and dedication to the younger ones.
The following day was spent at our volunteering activity, which took place at the SOS Social Center Hermann Gmeiner, where alumni volunteer regularly. The morning was dedicated to playing, coloring, and telling stories with children ages 4-6. The volunteering activity was a great introduction to the alumni community for the newest returning cohort, and we are extremely excited to see everything they will do in the future! Stay tuned!