By Parita Patel | YES’15 Alumni from Anand

“My 10 days in the USA have been a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from joy, learning, happiness, satisfaction to sadness. It is funny how even a day volunteering with at the YES end of stay orientation can teach you so much! For the first 4 days, I was a volunteer helping out with the 2019 YES End of Stay orientation. It was very heartwarming to see students of different cultures from different countries, having spent a year in the US with their host families, to come back and greet each other like they’re a part of this one big family. It reminded me of my own End of Stay orientation which was 3 years ago. In my time, we were not able to go to Capitol Hill because of some complications. But I am glad I was able to go there 3 years later and say my thanks to the office of a Representative of my host state–Michigan!

I met so many different students, YES Alumni and volunteers. I have come to realize that once an exchange student, you connect with other exchange students (present or past) irrespective of their host country and native country.

For End of Stay, I had jobs like helping out with registration, making the nametags, going to collect students from the airport, helping out with the students on visit to Capitol Hill and U.S. Department of State and patrolling the hallways with fellow Alumni at night to enforce the curfew (I am sorry, but it had to be done). I also co-facilitated a session on ‘Readjusting back into the Society’ for the exchange students of India, Ghana and Thailand. It felt gratifying to have been on exchange and have begun the process of readjusting back into the society and being able to help current exchange students because of that experience. On final day, I spent the day with the new Alumni from India since they were the last ones to leave. Talking, dancing with them on Bollywood songs and even refereeing a friendly wrestling match was so much fun! I felt beyond blessed to be able to interact with them and all the other amazing people I met at End of Stay orientation. Those days were hectic, full of work but I am lucky to have experienced them.

For the next few days, I attended the Training of Trainers for YES Changemakers workshop. There was one YES Alum each from 11 different countries. I felt blessed to represent India there. Our trainers Bob, Carolyn and Nancy were wonderful. They provided us the modules of the Changemakers curriculum and for the three days, we took the trainings as a trainer based on those modules for which they provided feedback. All the trainers and Alumni were very encouraging, patient and supportive. I learnt a lot about good training and being a good trainer. I learnt the different learning styles of the participants and how to take sessions such that people with different learning styles can learn from it. These days were full of trainings, making my session plan with my partner and brainstorming on how to make the curriculum more creative and taking risks with it. In the evenings, we walked around the beautiful city of Alexandria. We talked about different cultures, our hobbies (I and my roommate even choreographed and filmed a Bollywood/belly dance routine!), politics, community and life in our countries. One Alumna from Thailand took us to authentic Thai restaurant where we all got to taste Thai food. Because of those walks, long discussions outside of sessions, the cultural acceptance and sensitivity, we all became very close as a group. That means not only do I have a friend in those 10 countries, I also have a fellow trainer that I can ask for help! All in all, it was an enriching experience and I am very grateful to YES program for giving me this opportunity.”