by Rinë Fetahu, YES 2013-2014, Kosova, hosted by American Councils in Baton Rouge, LA
It only took me a thirty minute drive with small talks on our way back from the airport to feel like I never left!
Baton Rouge, Louisiana was the place where I spent my YES exchange year with my two host parents who fortunately I got to meet again after three years. My sweet reunion with my host family became far more interesting when my brother who is currently doing his masters in the U.S. was there, next to my host mom and her friend Miss. Wendy, wishing me a warm welcome. I remember, at the moment I was thinking: “Finally, my brother is going to fully understand what it means to go from one home to another!”
Louisiana also welcomed me with its warm and humid weather as of the first steps I took out of the airport while having my big winter jacket on.
The drive home was a roller-coaster of memories. Throwbacks, chills, and big smiles were being combined in this half an hour. Surprisingly, the first stop was not my host family’s house, but my high school. My host mum and I shared the same excitement being there because we were reminiscing all the times we spent there on football, soccer and volleyball games, senior nights and award shows.
The next four days went by very quickly as I tried to meet up with as many people as possible, always having talks about Kosova and Louisiana and remembering my exchange year while eating bowls of gumbo, crawfish etouffee and other traditional Louisiana food, which is one of my favorite things about Louisiana.
Speaking of food, nothing conquers my host mums cooking. Her thoughtfulness of cooking something similar to what we have in Kosova for my brother combined with many conversations we had at the house with her and my host dad, and just the reigning atmosphere of pure positivity within the family, not only made me feel like I never left, but my brother’s comment was: “I feel like I am home.”
At this moment I realized that in a world dominated by judgment and inequality, programs like YES, and people like my host family are the most important factors towards building bridges of connection and braking down walls.
Before realizing it, my trip to Louisiana came to an end. In 2014, when we said goodbye at the airport neither me nor my host family had any idea when we would be meeting again, and now different from that time, our goodbye was “See you later”.