YES Programs




Yes 20Th Anniversary Graphic With Photo Of Alum Siddhant Shah

By Siddhant Shah (YES 2007-2008, India, placed by AFS in Bennington, VT)

What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?

  • Became a Chartered Accountant, one of the most reputed and sought-after professional degrees in the field of commerce.
  • Implemented short projects in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar before I took a full-time job in one of the biggest companies in Dubai, where I was the IT Lead for Oracle Financials and Application Support for about four years.
  • Currently working as a Finance Consultant with various MNCs across the globe to help them implement ERP financials and to guide them in streamlining their business processes using industry best practices.
  • As an AFS Volunteer and YES Alumnus, I was able to complete following Certifications:
    • AFS Student Learning Journey (SLJ) Facilitator, 2021.
    • AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC), 2021.
    • Intercultural Learning – Level 1 Certified - Manila, Philippines, 2012.
    • YES Alumni Training of Trainers (ToT) Workshop – India and USA, 2012.
  • Volunteered for a 10-day community service program held in village called Kakelao, Rajasthan, to assist 130 members of Yale Alumni Service Corps, USA, August, 2014.
  • Attended YES Alumni ToT Workshop and YES Arrival Orientation in Washington DC, USA, August 2012.
  • Attended Intercultural Learning Level 1 In-person training in Manila, Philippines, 2012.
  • Group Leader for Global Youth Service Day in 2012 and 2013.
  • Conducted a virtual workshop for 300 students called, Youth for Global Empathy, which is a YES alumni led project aimed to bring awareness in youth and to equip them to take charge and contribute in the "new normal."
Alum Posing With Group Of People Outside School

What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?

  • My first Christmas celebration. I had just moved in with my new host family and they were very excited to have me arrive before Christmas. We picked up a Christmas tree from the farm, decorated it over the next few days, and brought presents for each other. We had a celebration in church and then a wonderful Christmas dinner with family.
  • My first experience of apple picking directly from a farm with friends and later on making apple pie with the apples we picked. 
  • Road trip with my host family (the Moores) to Nova Scotia, Canada, to meet their parents. We stayed with them for a week and visited various museums, parks, and beaches in the area.
  • Thanksgiving dinner with my host family (the Pearsons) and their extended family, who came over for the celebration. 
  • New Year celebration with other exchange students organized by our host coordinator. We played games, had a delicious dinner, and then wished each other a happy new year at midnight.
  • Frequent sightings of deer in our backyard early in the morning was simply captivating.
  • Experiencing snow for the first time and trying snow sledding and snowshoeing.
  • Field trip to New York with my entrepreneurship class. We visited various multinational corporations and the financial institutions on Wall Street. 
  • Experiencing subjects like journalism and advanced art. One of my paintings was even selected for display at a local art museum. The practical approach-based curriculum made all the subjects very interesting.
  • Taking part in the school theater productions of Hello Dolly and The Man Who Came for Dinner
Alum Posing With Extended Host Family In Nova Scotia
  • College visits for my host brother (the Pearsons) across the east coast. We had a wonderful road trip and also got campus tours of some of the best colleges in the USA. 
  • My host family (the Moores) took me to see The Lion King on Broadway. It was unlike any other show that I had seen. My host mom also arranged a backstage tour after the show, and it was very interesting to see their costumes and props.
  • So many wonderful memories of volunteering at a car show, restaurant, church, community service homes, charity runs, local fairs, etc.
  • Participated in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) state level competition in Vermont and earned one of the top three positions in Impromptu SpeakingSpeed CalculatingJob Interview IIEntrepreneurship, and Management Decision Making. I later got shortlisted in Impromptu Speaking at the national level ompetition held in Atlanta. 
  • The New York trip with our host coordinator/counselor and other exchange students was a memorable one. We went to the top of Rockefeller Center, visited churches and monuments, saw the glamor of Times Square, and shopped around Chinatown.
  • We did a cultural presentation for junior high school students, where the kids got a chance to visit various booths represented by exchange students from different countries and get their passport stamped as they visited each stand.
Alum Sledding In The Snow

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 get to connect with my fellow alumni during chapter meetings, trainings, workshops, and community service projects. I recently facilitated the Gateway Orientation of this year’s YES cohort in New Delhi with Aadil Fahim, a fellow YES alumni from my cohort. 
  • As part of the YES alumni initiative, Youth for Global Empathy, 20 YES alumni came together in 2021 to make an impact. We completed the course and designed a workshop to empower youth on skills required to grow in the new normal. I delivered a virtual session on empathy and intercultural learning to around 300 high school students (ages 16 to 18) at a school in India.
  • I also got an opportunity to connect with fellow YES alumni during several workshops organized by YES over the years including, "Mentor and Mentee,” “Preparing for Job Interviews,” “Developing Leadership Skills through Theater & Arts,” “Making Youth Citizen Journalists,” and “Leadership Workshop.” 
Group Of Students Posed Sitting On Steps
  • I had an opportunity to stay with two host families during my exchange program, as my first family had to travel abroad. I am close to both the families and also grateful to them for the amazing experience I had. We are in touch via Facebook, where we share our updates, photos, and stay connected. We have also exchanged gifts on a couple of occasions.
  • I visited Washington D.C. in 2012 to attend the YES Alumni Training of Trainers workshop and YES arrival orientation. During that time, I was also able to visit my host city, Bennington, Vermont, and reunite with both of my host families, friends, and teachers. 
  • My first host family, the Pearsons, were able to attend my wedding in Dec 2017. It was so good to have them by my side on such a special occasion. My second host family, the Moores, sincerely wished to attend the wedding, but couldn’t make it due to unavoidable reasons. 
  • I am also in touch with my entrepreneurship teacher, Mrs. Forest, via Facebook. She encouraged me to participate in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and was the reason behind me making it to the FBLA finals at the national level in Atlanta. 
  • My counselor and Local Coordinator, Mrs. Kara, has always been an inspiration to me. She was the one who introduced me to community service and with her help and support, me and my fellow students were able to complete 100+ volunteering hours during our exchange year. 
Alum Posing With Teacher And Fellow Student In Formal Wear At A Table

How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?

  • I had the option to study subjects like entrepreneurship, accounting, and advanced mathematics during my exchange year. The exposure and practical learning I gained during that first year motivated me to pursue my interest in entrepreneurship. I completed my Bachelors in Commerce (B. COM) and pursued the professional degree of Chartered Accountancy.
  • The exchange program is full of intercultural learning opportunities. My intercultural experience and exposure of  living abroad kickstarted my career at an IT company with global presence requiring deputation in various countries.
  • Personally, the YES program experience was a turning point in my life. It changed my perspective towards the world. I am now able to look at the world through a cultural lens that I never had before. Having been exposed to an intercultural experience at such a young age shaped my personality and became an integral part of my beliefs and values. I am able to respect and be tolerant of other religions and communities, understand and acknowledge the cultural differences, and suspend judgements and stereotypes by being more open minded. The experience also made me more independent, confident, and empathetic. 
  • As an YES Alumnus, I am fortunate to have received various opportunities to participate in workshops, community service projects, and trainings at the national and international level. The YES alumni "Training of Trainers" and other workshops equipped me with tools and skills required to facilitate and conduct workshops by myself. I have also been able to use those skills professionally to present in front of CFOs and other chief executives of large multinational companies.
Group Of Students Pose Together In New York City

What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should make the most out of it by participating in various school activities, festivals, and community service projects. In 2007-2008, we did not have smartphones or social media access at our fingertips, and we wrote emails to our friends and family once a week. This allowed us to have an immersive cultural experience, be mindfully present, and make new friends. I understand that nowadays many of us have become too dependent on our smartphones with a constant need to update and communicate with our friends and family back home. To experience the exchange program in its true essence, I would advise participants to disconnect from the virtual world and be more involved in the physical world. 

“Live your full life in that exchange year and you shall have a lifetime worth of experiences to share.”
Alum Posing On Mountain With Valley Below

In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?

The legacy of the YES program will be its own alumni, who believe in a just and better world. They are global citizens who believe world peace is possible by bridging cultural differences and misunderstandings. In the future, I see them in various influential positions in politics, industry, and governance, making decisions that promote world peace and harmony.

To share my personal experience, the USA was just another country to me and my image of the USA was mostly shaped by Hollywood movies and regional media. My exchange experience has given me cultural awareness, two wonderful host families, friends, and a place to call home in the USA. It has created a deep-rooted connection with the people and the place.

Large Group Of Students Posing Seated And Standing