I was a part of the YES program in 2016/2017 and was placed in Northwestern Missouri. I had fulfilled my wish to move out of my home country to visit the “Western World”. The first stop was, obviously, the United States of America. I had the opportunity to live, for the first time in my life, in a relatively small town. As big of a shock it was at the time, the circumstances changed again when my first host family went through a divorce and I had to move to an even smaller community. The vast differences between these two communities and my own country and city, were to me a challenge. Learning how to blend in a small mid-western town in Missouri as a teenager from the Balkan was rough, but it had taught me what it meant to truly grow as a person.
Me with my host mother and sister
Returning from the USA was as confusing at it was exhilarating. I was excited to return to my city, to my family and to my friends. At the same time, however, I was sad to leave the new life I had started in Missouri. So many new friends and acquaintances, so many new hangout spots, so many new hobbies and new thrills. I had to leave them and continue my old life in North Macedonia. Acclimating back to the “Balkan” way of life took a surprisingly short period, and I was back on track living my old life. My view on life was different, of course. I noticed a certain difference of opinion on a lot of subjects between me and my old friends. Some were rejected, but most were welcomed as a fresh perspective. My wish to visit other countries never went away. Soon after returning to my country, I was quick to hop on board to travel at any opportunity I would get. After returning, I visited Turkey, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and a couple of years later, the big return to the USA. I decided to act on the passionate feeling of patriotism that I’ve always had deep within me by continuing my education in the Macedonian Military Academy “General Mihailo Apostolski”. I felt the feeling of belonging once I put the military uniform on me.
Celebrating Macedonian Republic Day (Ilinden) in Vermont (September 8, 2019).
Shortly after my beginning as a cadet, I came across the opportunity to visit the USA for the second time in my life; this time – at Norwich University in Vermont. As soon as I stepped onto campus, it seemed as my experience living in the USA has brought me a huge advantage at managing to blend in. For the first time after leaving the USA, I had realized how much I’ve grown during the time I was a part of the YES program. I had gotten new perspectives on life, I had learned to blend in, I had learned to respect different cultures, I had learned to be more independent – I was a more complete person than I was before joining the program. I fully enjoyed my second time in the USA, learned many new things, and returned and even more complete person.
Me, next to Taiwanese and Korean cadets, as well as officers from Saudi Arabia and France.
Vermont, USA, 2019