By Hardi Mankodi, Alumni of YES program

I recently moved to Germany for my bachelor’s degree and it has been a wonderful experience so far. This summer as I was working here. I decided not to fly back to India, but instead, spend the summer with my families on this side of the globe. In June, my Italian sister Federica, who was in India in the year 2015-16 visited me here in Germany for a weekend. We met after 3 years and even if it was for a very short time, we made the best of it. We cooked Indian food together, I got to show her my city and made her meet my friends here. Then in July, I visited Alessandro, my Italian brother who was in India from 2014-15, and he showed me around his hometown and we went to some of the most beautiful lakes in North Italy. I got to meet his family and they made me feel right at home. I even got to see his University in Turin and got to experience a very Italian summer barbecue in the countryside. This was my second time visiting him this year, but him living so close makes me feel closer to home.Later in August, I got to meet my American host family.

With Host Family

My host mom had booked her tickets to come to see me and her first student Lea from Belgium, in Paris. I had never met Lea before, but we planned to meet in Brussels where she lives and then drives down to Paris together from there. So I took a bus from Germany to Belgium and spent a day with Lea and her friends in Brussels, and the next day we drove together to Paris to pick up my host mom and sister, then we all explored Paris together and we went to Disneyland as well. Later we did a long road trip to the west of France and spent a couple of days in the countryside there. We hiked the beautiful shores of the North Sea together and spent the whole week reminiscing about our time together in the US. We had a beautiful time together and I got to know Lea, who I would have never known if it wasn’t for my host mom and my exchange. Despite being thousands of miles from home, this summer I felt right at home in different lands with different families, all of which are my families, and I can’t thank AFS enough for these experiences and reunions. The cliché saying, “Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling” is indeed very true and that’s why home for me is spread across this globe.”