By Yasmine Hawa (YES 2018-2019, Cameroon, hosted by AFS-USA in Thiensville, Wisconsin)
One year ago when when I arrived in the USA and even before landing in the USA and meeting my host family, I made up my mind to accomplish great things. It was a challenge for me because I was shy. I couldn’t talk in front is a crowd without my voice trembling. I was afraid of big crowds but I made my mind and I couldn’t let myself follow the usual path of being afraid and not letting my voice being heard. I saw this as an opportunity for me to show what I can do and that I could stand for what I believe. Arriving in my host community it took me time to open up and get going. But each time I thought of my goals and it motivated me to go forward. I then engaged in school activities and started going out with friends more often. Then I kept doing it and I liked it. I started volunteering because one of my goals was to accomplish one hundred hours of volunteering.
I was even in track and field one of the things I would have never done ten months from then. I was determined to change and improve who I was and above all I wanted to back to my country leaving behind a positive impact. I didn’t want to go back to my country having regrets about not trying out things. It worked out well for me even though for most of the time I had to go out of my comfort zone.
To the new exchange students: I will advise you all to set your goals and set your mind. Be firm with yourself and do into let obstacles get in your way. Find good and appropriate ways to solve your problems. When you feel sad and lonely talk with your host family and friends. Go out and do fun activities. Go for a walk in your neighborhood and if it doesn’t work, cry and you will feel better. The only thing you always have to keep in mind is that those challenges will help you grow as a person. You will have a lot to share with your community back home. The satisfaction of achieving your goals will be the most rewarding thing you will have.
Talking about expectations, as you have heard during your individual PDOs; you should not have high and unrealistic expectations and also remember that not only do you have a expectations towards your host family and community but they also expect you to accomplish certain things as well. You have to discuss with your family about your expectations and do not be afraid because they will help you accomplish your goals if they are able to. Expectations aren’t bad but make sure that are realistic. I have accomplished so much during my exchange year so much more than what I did in seventeen years of my life. I sometimes feel like I could do more but I already pushed myself a lot. The most important thing is to always try everything that is being offered to you. Take heart and accomplish your dreams. Write your story, a story you would want to share proudly.
Always create some time just for yourself so as to think over everything and see what you can improve. You are capable to do more than you think. You are a warrior, you are smart and you have everything at your disposal to see your dreams come true. You are the best. If I could do it all over again I will without thinking twice. If i was to change anything it will surely include; doing more volunteering activities. I will spend more time with my friends and above all rewarding myself for my efforts and finding some spare time for myself. My exchange year wasn’t perfect but in every challenge I tried to find the good in it. Yours won't be perfect either. My story is the reflection of my decisions. Write your story and leave a legacy behind you. Have confidence in yourself and say “yes”. Life is a choice as such make your own choices.