By Qurrata A'yuna Adrianus (YES 2013-2014, Indonesia, placed by AFS in Vancouver, WA)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
The YES program taught me a lot of things, one of them being leadership. When I was pursuing my bachelor's degree, I conducted a mini research project about the needs of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and getting them information about public facilities. From this research, I got to present at an international conference (ICACSIS 2019) talking about an application design, which was based on the research.
Other than conducting research for my thesis, my biggest accomplishment since becoming a YES alumni is conducting some small and big events during my college life. Some basic skills I learned from my exchange year, i.e. communication, were very useful for me at that time.
Last but not least, one thing I am very proud of becoming as an alumni of the YES program is that I got to join international workshops. The most recent workshop I attended was Training of Trainers (ToT) 2022 in Alexandria, Virginia. Not only did I learn something new, but I also got to widen my network.
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
Back in 2013-2014, I attended many events that were impactful for me as a Person with Disabilities. I joined several adaptive sports in almost every season, including hand-cycling, baseball, and wheelchair basketball. My favorite was wheelchair basketball. I joined from the beginning of the season, went on several tournaments, and luckily my team, the Wheel Blazers, got to play for the NWBA. My teammates, including the coaches, were very helpful, especially as I engaged in any sport since becoming a PwD. I learned a lot from joining the team, not only about the skills to play basketball on a wheelchair, but also some skills I never knew I needed as a PwD. I remember how we rolled our daily wheelchair and sports wheelchair at the same time to the court, which currently is very useful for me in my daily activities.
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 stay connected with my host family and friends using social media. I usually contact them to ask how's life for them, currently and otherwise. Other than social media, I also attend some local events to stay connected to fellow alumni and volunteers, including national selection or gatherings. I have also joined several international workshops conducted by AFS/YES to meet the alumni whom I've mostly never met before.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
Personally, I learned a lot on how to become an independent person, especially as a PwD. Professionally, the YES program taught me how to build a network. I learned how to communicate well and how to adapt on a new environment. These skills are very useful for me on so many occasions.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
Being able to join this program is not about winning against others, but gaining as much as you can and enjoying every little process. Please enjoy the ups and downs you'll be going through during the program. Every little thing will teach you something. Also, don't forget to have fun.
In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?
I hope the YES program continues to provide good impacts to many more students in the world. I believe that the impact the YES program has is very helpful to maintain mutual understanding, not just for the students who joined the program, but also the people around them.
Read more about Yuna's story in our archives.