By Ajwan Aladeeb (YES 2022-2023, Kuwait, placed by YFU in Portsmouth, VA)
When I first started my exchange year, I was too excited to think about what would happen at the end of the year and how the year would change me as a person. I truly believe that my experience in the U.S. shaped me into the person I am today. As an exchange student, I dedicated myself to being open to new things, learning from others, and making great memories.
I was hosted in Portsmouth, VA. At first, everything felt like a dream. I felt like I was the main character in a movie. Everything was new to me, and I was filled with excitement. As I began to settle in, there were times where I felt homesick and lost. Both the positive and negative experiences taught me valuable lessons. I learned the importance of communication, both with myself and others.
One of the highlights of my exchange year was joining the tennis team. I was initially hesitant because I had never seen myself as an athlete. However, tennis had a profound impact on me, teaching me to not put limits on my own potential. I learned to push myself and believe in my own abilities. I am also so grateful for the bond I formed with my team.
Another significant experience was participating in the Civic Education Workshop (CEW). I learned so much about leadership, diplomacy, and U.S. history and culture. It was such an eye-opening experience for me. It sparked a deep interest in politics and history and ignited my desire to learn more. I also learned the importance of being an informed and engaged citizen.
To sum up the lessons learned from my exchange year, I would say embrace change, cherish the memories, and let the experience shape you into a more open-minded and culturally aware person. Your journey of change and development doesn’t end when your exchange year does. Keep exploring, learning, and growing!