By Petar Ivanov (YES 2012-2013, Bulgaria, placed by American Councils in Greenville, AL)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
I successfully applied and was accepted into the prestigious university NYU Abu Dhabi, where I successfully graduated with a B.Sc in Civil Engineering. While I was completing my degree, I was able to cofound and successfully build the first agricultural tourist destination in the UAE (https://sdme.nyuad.io/). For the past three years, I have been working as an engineer, which I consider to be a major passion in my life!
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
I think the entire experience was fully immersive in a way that allowed me to grow emotionally and to expand both my understanding of the world and of myself. Typically these types of statements may sound grandiose, but in reality, the YES program truly changed my life, and when talking to other alumni the case is the same with them as well. Seeing a different culture, way of life, meeting people, and getting the experience to live in a new place leaves a deep impact on a young person, as I was at the time when I went to the U.S.
One of my favorite memories was the end of the year party my host family organized for me and the other exchange student I was living with. We got to invite all of the friends we had made during the time we were there, and it did feel quite special. This is to pick one specific moment, but each trip, each dinner, each conversation where I got to know more about my host family holds a special place in my mind.
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 continue to have regular Skype calls with my host family, ten years after I have left from the YES Program. While I was studying at NYU in New York, I managed to join my host family for Thanksgiving, which was quite special. As for the alumni family, we keep up either on social media or at some alumni events we get to go to.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
I think the YES program introduced me to some of the most ambitious and kind people a person could have the privilege of meeting. Not only did I meet and make friends with people from all across the globe, but it has allowed me to be a part of a network that spans across countries and generations. A simple example is that in 2013, when I was thinking of applying to universities, I met a YES alumnus from a previous generation who told me about the university where he was studying and encouraged me to apply there. A few years later we are both alumni of the same university. In the same time, I met a bunch of other alumni while I was in the university, which just shows the power of the network.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
If I have to give advice it would be: attempt to immerse yourself in the experience and make sure you are open to try new things, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone.
In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?
I think that as the years pass and the network grows and the people from the program take on various positions in the professional world, we will be able to bring all the lessons we have learned from our experiences in a way that brings a positive impact to the communities we live in.