Olivia Vita a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad Program (YES Abroad) participant from Jericho, Vermont is currently studying in New Delhi, India. 

Recently, Olivia was felicitated with Student of the Quarter by AFS India for her exceptional learning as an exchange student.

“I sometimes wonder if anyone back in the States will even recognize me when I return, or if they may just walk past me in the airport because they’re still looking for the person I was before I left. I’ll tell them all that I’ve learned about a different culture and the world, and they will see for themselves all that I’ve learned about myself and how much I have grown as a person. It’s largely the challenges of being an exchange student that have allowed me to grow so much.

I have become both an emotionally strong and adaptable person, because I’ve encountered the inevitably frustrating moments that are caused by living in an unfamiliar culture and learned to figure out why things are the way they are so I can solve them in a culturally appropriate way or simply be flexible and learn how to live with it. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously all of the time; taking a risk implies a chance of failure, so I have made plenty of mistakes and had some embarrassing moments. These things became okay once I learned to laugh at myself, this way I have been able to learn from these mistakes. I have become a much more social and outgoing person, I wouldn’t be able to learn much about this culture if I wasn’t able to connect with its people. The examples of my personal growth are countless as I truly feel like a different person here, but most importantly I have gained a new perspective about the world and what’s really important to me, as I have bonded with people who live and perceive things differently from the way I have been raised and learned to live like them. The risk I took and the opportunity I was granted to study abroad have changed me for the better and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. 

Being chosen as AFS India’s student of the quarter is very meaningful to me as it solidifies the fact that all of the challenges I have faced are not without gain. From these I have gained a deep understanding of Indian culture, as well as that of myself. I have moments where I doubt my success on exchange and the impact that it has had. Being named student of the quarter has helped to clear these doubts, so I am grateful for the recognition and even more so for the opportunity that AFS and YES Abroad has given me to take the risk and study abroad, as it has changed my life completely.”

Through the course of her exchange, Olivia has formed cordial bonds with people in her hosting community, dedicated herself towards community service, imparting cultural knowledge to her Indian peers; in short serving as a brilliant cultural ambassador of the YES Abroad program. Congratulations, Olivia!