YES Student Honored as Homecoming King

By Igor Stojkov ’20, currently on program in U.S.

 

Hello everyone, my name is Igor Stojkov and I come from North Macedonia. I have just started my exchange year, but however, I experienced a thousands of different things and feelings. I was really nervous and excited about coming to the United States of America, in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. I was prepared for everything, but I could not imagine that I will end up being homecoming king !

Igor Stojkov '20 and his host family shortly after arrival

Igor Stojkov ’20 and his host family shortly after arrival

I arrived at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire and I met my host family. My host family and I were screaming out of happiness and when we arrived home, I was beyond surprised by the beauty of Northwood and New Hampshire. I had a lot of different expectations, concerns and feelings. But, when I met my host family for the first time, I just knew that we will get along really well. And that happened. I think that I am the first exchange student ever who got injured on his second day of his exchange year. Yes, I did that. I twisted my ankle and it was so painful. I had to see a doctor, and thankfully, nothing was broken. My host family were so caring and they helped me a lot. It was my first visit to an American urgent care and my first x-ray ever. Even though I was in pain, everything went good and I will have really interesting story to tell about the first days of my exchange year. On Labour Day, we went to the lake and I tried tubing, which was really fun and it was an amazing experience for me. And that is not the most exciting part.

Homecoming King Igor and his Queen

Homecoming King Igor and his Queen

My first day of school was on 4th of September. I have missed about 2 weeks of school, so I had to work more in order to catch up what I have missed. Also, homecoming was a thing that everyone talked about. When I stepped into my host school called Coe-Brown Northwood Academy , everyone knew about me and everyone were so friendly with me. I easily made friends. However, I could never imagine what will happen next. Homecoming was on Friday and Saturday (13 and 14 of September) and I was invited to the dance. I have seen more than 20 American High School movies in which they have prom or homecoming where they vote for a king and a queen, and that was so exciting for me. I was not really sure how to vote and for who. Group of people approached me and told me that they voted for me. I was so happy to hear that, but I did not expect to end up being actually the king of the homecoming. It was 9:30pm and the boy that was in charge of the dance announced me and said that I won the Homecoming crown and that 100% of the votes were for me. I could not believe what I heard. That was the most emotional and one of the best moments in my life. More than 100 kids from the school voted for me even though I was in the school for just 2 weeks. I had a dance with the Homecoming queen and it was so emotional and beautiful.

I am so happy that I am doing this !

 

Christmas Eco Cards

On December 28, our alumna Julija Stojanova (YES ’17, hosted by AFS in Beaver Dam, WI) organized a Christmas eco card workshop for young children in her home town of Kratovo, Macedonia. Julija and the children used old and recycled materials to craft wonderful cards with goal to share the Holiday spirit and to raise the eco awareness of the young children in her community.

MACEDONIA Kratovo Christmas Eco Cards organized by alumna Julija Stojanova '17

Led by the quote There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere”, around 35 children in the second grade from the elementary school in Kratovo participated and showed their creativity, as well as learned the importance of recycling and reusing of old materials. Julija had additional help in her mission of sharing eco awareness of two volunteers from the school. Together, they managed to demonstrate in a fun and interactive way the significance of learning about the environment and the ways to help nurture it.

My two months summer internship in Macedonia

By Raahil Krishna Amarshi, Lehigh Internship Program participant

 

 

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My name is Raahil Amarshi. I am a Tanzanian student at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I just completed my first year of university in the USA pursuing industrial and systems engineering alongside computer science. My university consists of an Iacocca International Internship Program (IIIP) which sends students abroad on summer internships to several different countries. Due to my interest in international travel, I applied to participate in this program and was selected to come to Macedonia whereby I worked with the American Councils on their Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.

The goal of this program was to build skills of adapting to different cultures and lifestyles alongside working in the office. This meant that certain challenges included living with a host family, reaching out to people and making new friends, etc. However, alongside those challenges, I had the pleasure of exploring the beautiful country on my own, eating Macedonian delicacies and most of all, making memories with people that I would never have imagined coming across.

In the office, I was assigned numerous administrative duties which often involved working with documentation of events, statistics, etc. In addition, I was also in charge of updating social media when the students participated in events that would prepare them for this exchange program. My favorite aspect of this job was that it involved interacting with plenty of new people and that helped me adopt at a quicker pace since I was welcomed by all those I met.IMG_1229

When it came to socializing and making new friends in a stranger country, I was very grateful that the size of this city was comparatively small and so, the ease of commuting made it easy to make plans to meet friends. Time flew by and I never realized how I had managed to find my comfort zone in a stranger country that in the beginning would be classified as “outside my comfort zone”. My habit of not denying any new experience has led me to making ever-lasting memories and unbreakable bonds of friendship. All in all, this program has not only developed in me a desire to have a unique view of every place I visit, but also has it made me want to re-visit Macedonia at a future stage.

GYSD Drive Safely Awareness

YES Alumni Coordinator – Bojan Aleksovski (YES ’14) organized a project that aimed to tackle Public Health – Safe Driving, one of this year’s development goals that GYSD is targeting.

MACEDONIA SKOPJE YES Alumni GYSD Drive Safely informative posters

Three YES Alumni and three YES Abroad students met up at the American Councils office. The participants had an open discussion about how to create positive teen-to- teen safe driving campaign reinforcing safe decisions and reducing distracted driving. Throughout the discussion the participants shared their own driving habits and experiences and concluded that many people, including teens themselves, think that the best way to reach young adults is to “scare them straight.” This rarely works. It can be overwhelming and cause teens to shut down. So, focusing on positive actions teens can take to be safe and to keep their friends safe can be a powerful message for teens.

MACEDONIA SKOPJE YES Alumni and YES Abroad work on GYSD Drive Safely project

Having that in mind the present YES Alumni and the YES Abroad students created informative posters about driving safely that are to be hanged in colleges and high schools in Skopje with most driving students. Additionally, the alumni created a social media for social change campaign plan. Namely, every Friday the alumni will post on the official Alumni social media accounts about safe driving.

Introducing the YES program and GYSD to Kumanovo Access Students

On Saturday, April 8th YES Alumni together with YES Abroad met up with students, participants of the Access Program at Pero Nakov High School, Kumanovo.

MACEDONIA KUMANOVO YES Alumni and YES Abroad discussing with Kumanovo Access Program students about Macedonian and American culture

The YES Alumni held a brief presentation about the YES program, promoting and familiarizing the participants with the activities that the Macedonian YES community organizes. The meeting continued with a discussion about the differences between Macedonian and American lifestyle. The YES Alumni and the YES Abroad students shared their experiences and most memorable exchange moments as well as their favorite values of the American and Macedonian culture. The visit to Kumanovo ended with a park clean up carried out by the participants with a goal to celebrate Global Youth Service Day.

MACEDONIA KUMANOVO YES Alumni, YES Abroad and Access program volunteers doing a clean up in honor of GYSD in Kumanovo

GYSD is the largest service event in the world and the only one that celebrates the contributions that children and youth make 365 days of the year. With today’s event, the Macedonian YES community aimed to tackle Sustainable Environment, one of the topics among this year’s causes that GYSD is targeting.

Exploring Europe with Gymnasia Josip Broz Tito

By Jaleh S., YES Abroad 2016-2017, Macedonia

High school students in Macedonia usually take a big school trip, or excursion, in the spring of their third year. This year, the students at Gymnasia Josip Broz Tito (JBT) took a five day excursion to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. Even though we’re just exchange students, as part of JBT’s third year IB class Kyra and I got to participate as well.

Our entire class piled onto coach buses on Tuesday afternoon, and we drove all night to get to Budapest the next morning. Along the way we made a late night stop at a McDonald’s outside of Belgrade, which was pretty fun for me and Kyra. Although neither of us eat fast food very often in the United States, we hadn’t had “real” American food in seven months and the golden arches are about as American as it gets.

In Budapest we took a brief tour of the city in the morning, and then we had free time for a couple of hours. We were actually in Budapest on their national independence day holiday, so the whole city was decked out in Hungarian flags and patriotic symbols. Although some of our classmates were upset at not being able to shop since most stores were closed, I thought it was great to see Budapest looking so festive; there were parades and different concerts going on, and we saw a few people wearing traditional clothes. The city itself is also beautiful – we got some fantastic pictures of the beautiful architecture during a nighttime river cruise, and Kyra tried traditional goulash for lunch .

 

 

 

 

 

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We spent one night in Budapest and then left for Prague the next morning. We didn’t do much the night that we arrived, but the next day we took a short tour and had more free time to explore the city. A lot of that time was spent shopping and eating trdelnik, a Czech pastry made from rolled dough topped with sugar and walnuts. We had one more night in Prague, and our entire class went out together to dance and have fun.

Our final stop was Vienna, and although we only had a few hours to spend in the city it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the trip. Kyra and I spent our day eating sausage, touring the national library, and wishing we had more time there. Vienna was the perfect wrap-up to our excursion, and we are now safely back in Skopje. I am so grateful to have had this amazing travel experience with my classmates, and I’m sure I’ll be back in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna soon!

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MY INCREDIBLE EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE

By Vesa Saqipi, YES student from Macedonia, currently on the program in Oregon, OH

The fact that I was given the opportunity to live this beautiful experience inspired me to write a couple of words to let you know how my experience has been so far.

My host family welcomed me in the best way possible. I fit in immediately and I felt like part of the family. Along with my work at school and community service, after school and during weekends, there were also some holidays. The first fancy place I got to visit was Cedar Point, an enormous amazing amusement park. It was my first time in a rollercoaster and it was incredible. I also had an amazing time for my birthday and my host family made it very special by giving me different lovely gifts, taking me to the movies and also taking me to a Hibachi Grill Restaurant, which is one of my favorite things ever. Later in November came Thanksgiving break. My host family decided to surprise my host sisters and me with a one week trip to Orlando, Florida. Orlando was unbelievable! Full of lights, full of life, it made me feel like I was in a movie, rather that reality. While there I got to accomplish one of my biggest, wildest dreams since I was a child and that was going to Disney World. I can’t describe in words how amazing this experience was.

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When we came back, a couple of days later Christmas was here and it was something very important to American culture. They like to be near their families and celebrate with a beautiful Christmas breakfast. I also got to understand that Christmas for Americans is a family holiday, rather than a religious one. They buy lots and lots of presents to show their love for the family members. I loved being part of that and getting to give presents to my host family.

We have also done many volunteer hours, counting to 100+ and we are still trying to do as much as possible, to help people and be human. I was also part of the crew behind the stage for the play “South Pacific” that my school organized. I am looking forward to visiting more places as the months pass, following month New York, after that Chicago, Niagara Falls, etc. And then after all, the time for me to say goodbye to this place I lived for 10 months will come. I miss my country, my city, my family, friends and everything there. I know I will miss this place and this family that opened their heart and home for me, but I am more than excited to go back and share my experience.

Although, there is one thing that I understood as time passed by, being an exchange student is not all about seeing big cities and famous places. It is about getting to know a new culture, getting to know a second family and getting to know yourselves better. That’s what matters the most.

YES program is a program I would recommend to any student, because it is worth it.

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YES Abroad Macedonia Mid-Year Orientation (January 16th and 17th, 2017 – Veles, Macedonia)

By Vesna Naumovska, YES Abroad Coordinator

It’s been 5 months that we have Jeremy, Kyra, Jaleh and Arshia in Macedonia. They were not happy at all that they are on a half way of their exchange, so instead of Mid-Year Orientation we called this Orientation “Trip to Veles”.

We organized everything for our trip on Monday, except the weather – we couldn’t control the weather and since it was snowing so much we couldn’t get on the morning train as planned so we took the later bus instead and we made it safely to Veles.

We had very successful Mid-Year Orientation in Hotel Gardenia. Reflecting on goals and expectations, setting up new goals for the next 5 months and seeing how much students have grown was very interesting and valuable for all.

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Mid-Year Orientation is so essential and students understood the value of it when they were done with all activities. We ended up the first day with relaxing activities enjoying the spa and wellness center at the hotel.

The following day the YES Abroad students met with Aleksandra Najdevska, YES Alumna from Veles. Thank you Aleksandra for spending time with us and sharing your exchange experience. It is always interesting to hear stories from YES Alumni.

My dear students, every day you experience something new. Time flies, so don’t waste time on worries and things that you cannot change or control. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Macedonia, explore and share and be the best youth Ambassadors that you can.

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Thanksgiving in Macedonia

By Jeremy Slater, YES Abroad 2016-17, Macedonia (Skopje)

 

Wow! Time is flying by. As the remaining leaves wither and fall from the trees and the temperature continues to drop, I am reminded of my favorite season, fall. I love this season for many reasons; however, Thanksgiving is by far my most favorite part of autumn.

Thanksgiving is a special time for many American families. It is a time where nuclear and extended families rejoin, eat many flavorful dishes, and have fellowship. I was cautious to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, because being away from my family seemed like a very difficult thing to do. 2016 has been an uphill battle for my family, and celebrating a holiday where family is the center was causing me turmoil. Nonetheless, the wonderful friends I have made here helped this holiday become wonderful, extremely unique, and exciting.

My YES family, which included many entertaining alumni, all had Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday (the night before Thanksgiving). The current YES American students were organized to bring our favorite holiday dishes, and they all turned out phenomenal!

 

I was enlisted to cut the turkey. Let’s just say, I am not the head-of-the-house just yet…

I was enlisted to cut the turkey. Let’s just say, I am not the head-of-the-house just yet…

Finished product!!!

Finished product!!!

 

Also, I was invited by my American friend from church for a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. I was very happy to share Thanksgiving with my church family, and I was eager to talk to the Macedonians there about what this holiday means for our families. I am so incredibly thankful for the people who have come into my life; this year I have so much to be thankful for. While at my church’s Thanksgiving dinner, I met three Syrian refugees, who are seeking asylum in Skopje. They have journeyed here from Aleppo and it was very, very interesting talking to them about their odyssey.

Finally, as I end this blog post, I want to thank my two families, my coordinators and directors in DC, my lovely friends back in the States and abroad, for their unending display of love, support, and kindness as this year progresses. Being abroad during the holidays is never going to be easy, but being surrounded by an immensity of tenderness has made it so much easier. I am still so in awe for how incredibly blessed I am and I hope that this year continues to get even better.

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European Day of Languages celebrated at JBT host high school

– By Jaleh Shambayati , YES Abroad 2016-17,  Macedonia ( Skopje)

 

The European Day of Languages is an event sponsored by the Council of Europe that is dedicated to recognizing the diversity of languages spoken throughout the world. This year the European Day of Languages was September 26, and schools all over the continent planned events meant to engage students in learning about a variety of international languages. Several Macedonian schools participated in the day, including Gymnasium Josip Broz Tito (JBT) where two YES Abroad students Kyra Jasper and I are enrolled for this academic year.

At JBT, the 3rd year IB students and the school’s various language departments (including English, Macedonian, Turkish, French, and German) were responsible for planning activities centered around different world languages. Each language represented got its own booth to showcase aspects of the language and the cultures of the countries it is spoken in.

 

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Jaleh serving apple pie at the English language booth

As native English speakers and exchange students from the United States, Kyra and I were responsible for helping with the English language booth. We presented pictures of the UK, Australia, and the US as well as books in English. We also served English tea and American apple pie, which were a big hit.

There was also an elaborate scavenger hunt where each clue was in a different language that was planned and executed by our class. The scavenger hunt was a huge success, and crowds of students were running around the school trying to decipher each of the clues for over an hour!

The main event of the day was a foreign language spelling bee where participants tried to spell out words in French, English, and German. At the end of the event, prizes were given out to the top spellers and the winners of the scavenger hunt. Overall the day was a big success; there were over 100 participants in total, and we all left knowing a little more about European languages.