Yazan’s world has gotten smaller as he has connected with people from across the globe.
By Perparim Kryeziu (YES 2009-2010, Kosovo, placed by American Councils in Bennington, VT)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
It has been over 13 years now since my days in Bennington, Vermont, but some of the memories that have stuck are my first visit to New York City and the mid-year YES retreat in Washington D.C. I also remember visiting Seattle, Washington, and whale watching with my host family, playing and trying sports as extracurricular school activities, as well participating in cultural events like trying new foods and seeing new places. Thanksgiving day and Christmas morning were unique experiences for me. I particularly enjoyed the culture of dinner time and hearing everyone go on about their day. I will also never forget the first time I had s'mores - at the time I thought that there couldn't be anything else that's more delicious.
What are some of the ways you’ve stayed connected to fellow alumni since your exchange experience? What about your host family or friends?
At first, we met regularly both privately and in YES activities. As time passed by and life happened, it has become more challenging to meet and gather. However, I get to meet some of my fellow YES alumni from my generation every once in a while. Just last year, during a visit in Istanbul, I met with a 2009-2010 alumna over dinner, who lives and works there. We caught up and reminisced about our time in YES and everything that followed. We still have everyone's contact and social media, which also helps us to connect with each other.
Regarding my host family, we still text them and share pictures. I have visited them back in the U.S. several times, and I always make sure to wish them a Merry Christmas, a happy new year, and Happy Thanksgiving.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
It was a maturing experience, in essence. It helped me to enhance my adaptability to new situations and settings, which is still very important to this day. I became more aware, interested, and liberal toward different norms, lifestyles, and cultures. I developed better social skills and created a big network of people at a very early stage. It put me ahead in time and ahead of my peers. It gave me a second home. It was a life-changing experience.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
YES is an ever-giving experience. Take full advantage of your time in the program. Create strong and lasting relations. Stay connected with the alumni. Benefits stemming from YES will follow you throughout your career and life.