Yazan’s world has gotten smaller as he has connected with people from across the globe.
By Reem Sharha (YES 2008-2009, West Bank, placed by Amideast in West Bloomfield, MI)
What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?
My most significant accomplishments since becoming an alumna of the YES program are mainly becoming the YES Alumni Coordinator from 2011 to 2014, during which I worked on developing the West Bank YES Alumni Network and the steering committee. Driven by my motivation to give back to my community, I arranged more than 20 community service activities with my fellow YES alumni to engage more with our society. Moreover, as my YES experience has enhanced my English language skills, I was able to apply for different funding opportunities to sponsor programs that aimed to improve the education system in marginalized areas of my country.
What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?
Choosing a favorite moment from the YES program is tough, as it gave me a second family, lifelong friends, and enough warm memories to last a lifetime. Just thinking about the experience warms my heart, and a trailer of happy, cheerful memories rushes into my mind. The YES program is an experience that enriches the soul.
Every moment of the experience is unique, as most of these moments were my first time for everything. The first time I had to be strong and independent and have self-awareness. The first time I fell in love with a second family that was supportive, generous, caring, and loving. The first time I tried new cuisines, and ever since, butter chicken has been my all-time favorite dish. The first time I felt the excitement of playing in the snow and building snowmen with my host sister. The first time to have lifelong friends from all over the world that have taught me a lot. The first time I represented my country and culture to others and acknowledged that we are all one and that the world would be better with harmony and peace.
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 my fellow alumni through the West Bank YES Alumni Network, where it is our place to express our thoughts, plan activities, and share experiences with each other. As for my host family and friends, I have been connected to them through social media and phone calls, and I was privileged to meet my host family in person again in Jordan.
How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?
The YES program has impacted my professional and personal growth through the multiple skills I gained throughout the year and the various workshops and trainings I have attended as a YES alumna. This experience has boosted my confidence, leadership, and public speaking skills. Moreover, being part of such an experience at an early age, I was inspired to seek a career path as a diplomat in order to be part of the worldwide pursuit to achieve peace and harmony among different nations and represent my country on the highest level possible. I knew back in 2009 that was my goal, and I have achieved it today, as I am currently a diplomat of the State of Palestine. Moreover, the YES program taught me to be more tolerant, respectful, and to admire people's differences with an open heart and mind. Likewise, I became more independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?
There will be moments when you will be shy, scared, feeling homesick, and all you want to do is to cry; at these moments, remember that you are surrounded by a family that loves and chooses to be with you. All you have to do to overcome the feeling of loneliness is to open your heart and mind and step out of your comfort zone to enjoy your new life.
In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?
The YES program will continue to nourish the world's future leaders to understand the importance of creating a common global society blessed by a shared culture of peace.