By Mouhamadou Mourtalla Mbacke (YES 2016-2017, Senegal, placed by American Councils in Willsboro, NY)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
I got my Baccalaureate with high honor in 2019, then I got a full scholarship to come study in Morocco. I got a DEUG (equivalent to an associate's degree) in economics and business management, and was recruited by TikTok as a content management specialist for their sub-Saharan African market.
I was chosen to participate in the Lehigh University Global Village in 2021. I also represented Senegal in the Beyond YES African Summit in Tanzania in 2022. Recently, in June 2023, I participated in the International Student Week in Germany.
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
I remember my YES program year like it was yesterday, but the things that always first come to mind are my first time throwing a basketball (the ball didn't move two meters). Over the year, I kept practicing and eventually got into the varsity team at my host high school. I also remember my first fight with my host brother and the make-up afterwards. I remember going to the the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as my first time in Times Square and in Washington D.C. Lastly, I remember my host mom's chicken pies and my first Christmas.
What are some of the ways you’ve stayed connected to fellow alumni since your exchange experience? What about your host family or friends?
When I was in Senegal, I used to go to the monthly alumni meetings and actively participated in alumni community projects, especially in my city Kaolack. Currently, I try to be as active as one can be at a distance. As for my host family, I'm still in contact with them, and last year I went back to Willsboro and spent a week there with my host mom and brother.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
The YES program taught me practical skills like English, public speaking, etc., which are at the center of my career right now. Most importantly, the program taught me to expand my world. There are so many things to learn, so many places to go, so many people to meet. I learned to adapt to people from different places, to work with them, and to appreciate their cultures.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
I would tell them to embrace the experience, to not be afraid to try new things.
In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?
I hope we'll have multiple YES alumni presidents, lawyers, CEOs, etc., and that the world becomes closer because of us.