While 2018 was filled with many exciting firsts for Academic Year in America (AYA) exchange students, some of the best moments were spent teaching others about international education.
With 2019 around the corner, AYA exchange students look back on a monumental year. Of all the standout memories, Haytam, a YES Program participant from Morocco, said that sharing his culture with others was a major highlight. He reflects on his international education journey below:
During my exchange year, I had many different experiences that had a big significance in my life and that will never escape my memory. I remember the really first day when I met my host family in the airport. I was happy, nervous, excited… I can’t even describe how great that feeling was. But at that time, I never thought about how much fun I will have in this experience or how hard and life-changing it can be.
I am so grateful to have my American family who welcomed me in their house and kept being open minded to learn about my country, culture, religion, and myself. They also shared with me theirs in the same time.
In the beginning, it was a little bit hard to make friends in school, but soon after, it all changed for the best. I also feel so lucky to have such an amazing Local Coordinator (Mrs. Dina B.), and awesome host families community, we met too many times and had a lot of activities and fun together. Also, thanks to them, I could do more than 48 hours of volunteering and community service, helping other people and learning leadership and life skills.
International Education Week (IEW) was another experience that I had, and that was full of surprises. I had the chance to do 14 presentations in my high school and 2 at Francis Marion University. I was so honored to represent my country as a young ambassador and to help other people know more about Morocco. Over 340 people attended my presentations, and I was so glad to hear them say: “Your presentation was great,” “You did a great job!” and “Please, can you come on another class period?”.
I think that showing an information in variant ways helps the memory to remember it for long time, so I showed them videos (Moroccan music), audios (the national anthem) and a lot of pictures. I also wrote their names in Arabic as a souvenir and showed them in the board how we write Arabic. It was so funny when they tried to pronounce some Arabic letters. Besides, I brought from Morocco small versions of some items for display and passed them around, so they can touch them and see what they’re like. They loved my traditional clothes that I wore during my presentations too.
My favorite part was the questions and answers. They asked me a LOT of different questions, they were sometimes so funny to answer because they were based on stereotyping. But they were also some serious questions about government, history, culture, or my personal experience.
International Education Week is only one of the stories that I have lived in this experience. Honestly, I can even write a book if I want to talk about my year in the U.S… it will be a 10 chapters book.
Thank you YES Program, thank you AYA!
Are you interested in opening your heart and your home to an international exchange student like Haytam? If so, learn more about hosting with AYA today.