Yazan’s world has gotten smaller as he has connected with people from across the globe.
By Andani Kholinar (YES 2006-2007, Ghana, placed by AFS in Silver Spring, MD)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
I have done a lot since finishing my YES year in 2007, but the dearest accomplishments to me include:
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
I have a lot of fond memories from my YES year, but my memories involving school and my host family are my fondest. I still reminisce about playing soccer for School Without Walls in Washington D.C., where I made friends with American students and students of other nationalities, including Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and Russia. I remember fun times during my host family’s travels to Boston and Philadelphia to visit my host sisters at school. Those times were long and tiring, but also immensely memorable.
Celebrating my first birthday with my host family remains the best birthday I’ve ever had. My time with my Filipina friend Mazuin, along with our coordinator Jody’s husband, Joel, at the Gettysburg National Military Park was extra fun too. I also remember fondly my time with fellow students with disabilities at the MIUSA Camp in Eugene, Oregon. The YES student visit to the Senate is memorable because I got to see then-Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain, etc. As a high school student, one of my favorite memories remains Prom night with Mazuin.
What are some of the ways you’ve stayed connected to fellow alumni since your exchange experience? What about your host family or friends?
I have stayed connected to alumni both in Ghana and around the world through active participation with AFS and YES volunteer and alumni programs. I set up, and became first president of, YES Alumni in Ghana. I volunteer at the AFS office in Ghana and have traveled to the U.S. to volunteer for YES program orientations. I actively keep in touch with my year group friends from the Philippines, Malaysia, Mozambique, Kuwait, etc.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
YES opened my mind to the broadness of the world. The program allowed me to dream bigger than my peers in my old neighborhood, and today I have attained a level of personal and professional development that only one or two others have. The ambition to apply for a PhD program immediately after earning my first degree can only be ascribed to the confidence and knowledge of the world that YES instilled in me.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
Be yourself. Enjoy the moment and don’t think too hard about what you have to do at the end of your YES year. Be in the moment and you’ll thank yourself later.
In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?
I hope in the short (10) and medium (30) years, we have YES alumni in leadership positions all around the world, and we get to apply the camaraderie we learned and make the world in the image of YES. What I mean by that is, YES united all of us from different backgrounds to not just tolerate, but to appreciate and enjoy each other in our differences.
Read more about Andani's story in our archives.