— by Toni Bevanda, YES Program 2016-2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina
My name is Toni, I am from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and am placed in Indianapolis, Indiana. These 9 months have been a real roller coaster, because during this period I have had to adjust to a new culture and country, but then also start thinking about what it’s going to be like to leave this new life I built.
Thanks to the YES program I have realized everything is possible and that you can overcome almost every obstacle life puts in front of you. This year has affected me so much and has changed my mindset entirely. I feel like my brain and the way I think have improved and reached a level I never thought were possible for me.
I came to the U.S. to expand my cultural views and represent my country the best I can, and in return I have learned a bunch of things that have helped me determine my future life path. Living in a completely different environment and a new family helped me realize how there are different people, different cultures, and different ways of solving problems and doing things. The YES program connected me to both American and Mexican cultures, since I have been living with a host mother who is from Mexico. I am so grateful to this program but also to everyone I have met during this year. My new friends and family have shown me what support means and that they are the ones who will always help you if you are feeling homesick.
I did not document every moment through photos, because I think photos are a way to show off to others. I came here to experience things, to live in the moment and experience everything to the fullest. It’s too hard to choose what made this year unforgettable. From helping kids with disabilities with their theater performance, helping my teachers tutor students to becoming a captain of a Varsity Volleyball team and being a part of an amazing host family, theater family. I am a part of an amazing program which gave me so many chances to explore aspects of myself and learn about life. Something that I am always going to remember is International Education Week, when I saw how many students are interested in my country, a country 90% of them have never heard of.
I certainly know I will never, and I really mean never, forget this year of my life. This is the year which laid out for me a plethora of future paths. Travelling when you’re 17 and filling your schedule with volunteering and helping others is something that has helped make me feel fulfilled. Especially volunteering has showed me how grateful I have to be for everything I have, and I am proud to say I have reached my goal of volunteering for 100 hours while on program.
Now, when this year is slowly coming to an end I am trying to remember everything I have experienced and it is impossible to remember all of it. I urge everyone to at least try and apply for the program because you have nothing to lose. By applying for the program you can only enrich every segment of your life. It’s a unique experience and something you will never regret doing.