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.
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.