YES Programs



With Open Arms

Ali With Arms Wide Open

By Ali Alghouli (YES 2018-2019, Lebanon, hosted by World Link in Visalia, CA)

It’s been a year since the start of my exchange year, and even though there were a lot of hardships, I did not let that stop me from making the best out of my experience. There is no excuse for not achieving my goals. If my exchange year taught me something, it is that I should never quit. There were some points when I just wanted to quit because of the obstacles along the way, but it is never worth quitting. 

Ali In Nyc

If I hadn’t persevered through the challenges, I probably wouldn’t have achieved half of what I accomplished. The rewarding satisfaction of overcoming obstacles wouldn’t have been half as valuable if it did not come from the hard work and moments of frustration. These hardships were not an excuse for me to stop, but rather, motivation for me to keep moving forward. 

Alis Departure

I wanted to overcome them and I did. I excelled and achieved, and these victories are meaningful because I gave my best efforts. From being named the October “Student of the Month,” by my placement organization, World Link, to being a student finalist for International Education Week, the rewards of my hard work were great satisfactions. 

I wouldn’t want to change my exchange year to be different. A year ago, I went to California with open arms to embrace my exchange year, and make it a time of self-growth. I am happy to say that I believe my exchange year was the best experience it ever could be. Everything that happened made me who I am today, and I believe that every moment was worth the experience. My concluding advice to every new YES student: it is all worth it, never give up, and always do your best - because you are going to see how valuable it is at the end.


In May, write a thank you letter to your host family, host community, or favorite teacher! 

Check out this month's story prompt at and submit your story!