By Bojan Aleksovski, YES 2013-2014, Macedonia, hosted by AFS in Chelmsford, MA
Every year, approximately one month after program participants return home, American Councils’ alumni coordinators conduct re-entry seminars for new alumni. The newest generation of nine YES alumni returned to Macedonia on June 15, and their re-entry seminar was held June 26-27 in Skopje. The purpose of the re-entry seminar was to welcome the students home, give them the opportunity to analyze their development during their year abroad, discuss problems they may face adjusting to life at home, and introduce them to the alumni community. With the newest generation, Macedonia has a total of 112 alumni.
During the first day of the seminar, the alumni looked back at their experience on the YES program and shared what they love and miss most about the U.S. and what they love and missed most about Macedonia. After looking back, the participants discussed everything that has changed while they were on the program and how have they changed. Each of the alumni presented his or her “new self” in front of the group, including new interests, hobbies, and roles in the family and local community. Alumni discussed reverse culture shock and any problems they had been having or anticipated having with readjustment. They then learned about all of the resources and opportunities available to them as YES alumni.
The first day also included an alumni panel in which four YES alumni of past generations and one YES Abroad alumnus who happened to be in Macedonia during the seminar shared their readjustment experiences and tips for overcoming challenges and using the year abroad as a positive foundation for the future. The panelists also shared their favorite events and projects organized by the YES alumni community in Macedonia.
On the second day of the seminar, the alumni had the opportunity to share their experiences with and receive advice and encouragement from Benjamin R. Lingeman, Assistant Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy Macedonia, Rebekah Brown, Communication Officer at American Councils in Washington, D.C., and Rebecca Strattan, Senior Program Officer for Secondary School Programs at American Councils in Belgrade!
The alumni also spent time developing ideas for small community projects, which they will conduct in July and August. The re-entry concluded with a community service activity in which the participants painted pictures inspired by their U.S. experiences on small canvases. Some of the paintings will be donated to the local children’s hospital and others will be sold and the funds collected to support a local charity.
Following the seminar, the alumni shared that they now feel ready to face readjustment and are eager to begin to change their communities with the many projects they will organize.