By Forum Sunil Bhatt, YES ’16 Alumni from Gandhinagar hosted in USA

I packed a lot because the place I was leaving for next month was too new to me. Even the weather was new. Back in July 2016, when I was a sixteen-year-old girl from India – a country known to be widely hot and spicy, I left for the biggest journey of my life to a land known for being cold, Maine. A journey of change began when I stepped foot into the United States for the first time ever. All of a sudden, I found this new energy in me to learn a foreign culture – its values, traditions and good habits. Learning began at home. My host dad Mike was also my AP government teacher at the school. Every morning we’d learn more about the constitutional amendments and political history of the USA, only to come home to watch the news as a family in the evening. I also got to choose journalism as an elective in my third trimester (foreshadowing). I was a literature lover but I never knew I had a passion for Journalism and political discovery in me until then. 

The number of hours spent by my host dad, just sitting with me and solving even the silliest of my doubts would’ve been enough to finish an eight-episode Netflix series. As one positive action leads to another, even before my exchange year ended, I had enrolled myself into one of the leading journalism colleges in India. 

Not only did the YES program helped me in learning the importance of community service and active participation, but it also helped me map a path that I have been able to follow post the exchange year as well. After completing a year at my university, I was lucky to intern with AFS Intercultural Programs India.  

I am happy to say that this is one of the many opportunities that I found the strength in me to succeed at due to the YES program‘s impact in my life. It truly did change me for the better!