Monthly Archives: July 2012

Faryal Hasan’s Exchange year story -Share your story.

First Story shared by Faryal Hasan, K-L YES participant in the year 2011-2012. According to Faryal, “Exchange year is not a year in your life, rather life in a year.

“How does it feel to stand on the icy rocks of the Colorado’s mountains as a think curtain of snow and hail pelt on the crowd? How can you ever give words to that disbelief when you attend a conference conducted by Assistant Secretary of State, Miss Ann Stock?  Or that moment of comprehension at seeing everyone, irrespective of color, cast, or region, radiate unadulterated love and genuine understanding towards you? Or the unbridled curiosity of getting acquainted with different cultural idiosyncrasies, the exhilaration of incessant travelling and the contentment of discovering your own self…well, welcome to my exchange year. Exchange year is not a year in your life, rather life in a year. To step out of the comfort of your home; to embark upon a new journey, marks the beginning of a year that changes the course of your entire life.

To start with, I was placed in the snowy state of Colorado. The role of Cultural Ambassador had put a massive responsibility over me, however, the learning and communication that it offered, made the task pleasant. During International Education Week in November, I visited a myriad of places and shared the highlights of Pakistani culture. From the religious people in the Church to the inquisitive students of University of Colorado, everyone exuded utmost interest in Pakistan.

Likewise, my passion for communication played its part, creating more opportunities for me. I was selected in Better Understanding for a Better World Conference 2012 (BUBW) in Florida and CIVIC Education Workshop (CEW) 2012 in DC. BUBW was a High School Youth Leadership and Interfaith Conference, giving me chance to meet people from around 31 different countries, and no wonder, everyone was infused with optimism for a better and more peaceful world. On the contrary, CEW was a conference based on teaching responsibilities of a citizen and functioning of the government. It involved touring monuments and building in DC such as Capital Hills as well as meeting the official, for example, Senator Lugar.  Similarly, I participated in Model United Nation Conference, securing Honorary Mention. I also won 2nd position in the State Speech and Debate Tournament. Presidential Award Certificate by President Barak Obama for over 100 hours of community service was another of my achievements.

On another note, my American High School, CIVA Charter School was perhaps the best aspect of my exchange year. The ravens, as the students of CIVA were called, would always extend conciliatory hand toward their fellows. Also, I stepped out my comfort zone, opting for new subjects such as Photography, Advanced Theatre, Jewelry and Ceramics. My favourite class, relationships, was tremendously thought provoking, egging me on to be myself at all times, embrace change and persevere. Fortuitously, I also attended the graduation ceremony, thus becoming a CIVA alumna.

Moreover, I befriended people from all around the world. In fact, my exchange year redefined my understanding of friendship. I started looking beyond ‘trying to fit in’ and would welcome people who accepted me for who I was. I made beautiful friends from Japan, Serbia and Mali. To bide them farewell was the toughest, however, promises to meet again were exchanged.

As far as American holidays were concerned, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Homecoming and Christmas were amongst my most rejoiced festivals. During Thanksgiving, I along with my host family went over to my local coordinator’s place to enjoy the big feast. Turkey, Corn bread, cake, you name it. Halloween, on the other end, was spent on Trick or Treating, in which I and my host siblings went around the town asking for sweets. I had dressed up as a doll, where as my little brother had worn a Ninja costume. Homecoming was celebrated in my school, with the theme of Horror Halloween. During Christmas, I spent the day at my American grandparent’s place, sharing gifts and words of love.

No wonder, the most cherished time included the very random moments that happened and lessons learnt. Late-night walks to McDonalds, hang-outs at Movie theatre, crazy sleep-over’s, trying new cuisine, conversations about life, taking risks, confronting problems, and what’s note. My exchange year taught me that ultimately, I would be defined by the things that I refuse to do. Alas, I also became insecure; however, found my way out with a groomed me; a more open-minded, originality-driven, resilient person. I learned to let go of the good to find something better, to accept my present self to improve my future and to stop taking friends for granted. It inculcated in me fellowship for people around the world and turned me into a more amiable and garrulous individual.

Now that my exchange year has come to an end, I have new journeys to undertake. However, the indestructible foundations have been laid.  Here is to iEARN Pakistan for initiating this amazing program. Here is to Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) and immeasurable opportunities that came with it. Here it to all the memories made and friends found. Most importantly, here is to those life-changing 10 months – my exchange year.”

Hopefully you found the story interesting. To share your story, follow the link below:

Thank you.


Exchange year- a glimpse.

Aqib here. I am posting this video to get you excited for your exchange year if you are just about to embark on this journey. Or want to refresh your memories, if you already had this journey. Hope you will learn that there is a bright and dark side to everything. In this video, you may see the bright side. But you need to understand how to turn dark side into bright.
Thank you.

How Aliens live- life of an exchange student?

It all starts with a simple preliminary application but it ends with an unimaginable experience which most of the times refers to a good one.  Sitting on the couch writing about life of an exchange student reminds me of my whole year. With lots of byes, excitement an exchange student leaves from one world to a different world to different people known as host family. As a tradition they ask you a bunch of questions and you try to answer them. Of course language barrier is one reason that you can only try to give the desired answers.  As one of my exchange friends says, “I did not understand the word they said in the first couple of weeks”.

One important part of an exchange year is school, a place to have fun and spread awareness about your culture, where most exchange students go with an introductory paragraph about themselves and to be honest it is found creepy in most cases. First few weeks of the year are always a great deal because you are in the process of settling in a different culture but then things become more exciting as you get settled.

Now comes the part which is called Community Services. It might sound a little nerdy and boring as it did when I was on the other side of the river but now I can tell it’s not.  An exchange student has to do certain hours of community services in order to understand the happenings around them and to spread their culture. I remember the first time I entered in that elderly house and the last time I walked out of that door. As my host mother said, “I can see the difference in you; the sense of responsibility you have attained will make you successful in life one day.” An exchange student grooms him/herself through volunteer work as similar to an adult who works for living.

Another turn in the life of an exchange student is the cultural shock/homesickness phase. It’s the phase in which he starts to miss his family and becomes ungrateful for the things around him. This phase usually comes around November. In order to get out of this phase, he/she may use tools such as humor, getting socially involved in stuff etc. I remember one of my friends telling me how he used to laugh at himself in order to avoid homesickness.

In the mean while comes activities and fun stuff that everybody wants to have. I remember how much I was afraid of the roller coaster rides and now I love roller coasters. Life of an exchange student is full of adventures, meeting new people, clearing the stereotypes/misconceptions of their culture and making life long relations.  As we are talking about relationships, one thing I learned from my exchange year is; family is not the one which is related to you by blood but it’s the one who loves you and who you love.

In only ten months, an exchange student meets many people, some are good, some bad and some remind them of their beloved ones.  People  say addiction to alcohol is bad, some say addiction to food is bad but I believe according to an exchange student’s opinion, addiction to people is the worst and when he/she learns to overcome this addiction, they become mature.

The last but not the least comes the easy or so called wrap up zone. This is the time when he/she get so much adjusted in the community that they may not like to leave the home what once was an alien planet. This zone is full of goodbye memories, long life relations acknowledgements and identifying if your year was successful or not. One of my high school teachers said, “If the atmosphere is good then story can end but if it’s sad then it is not ended yet.”

According to me, you can live ten years of life in ten months but what do you think? You cannot say anything unless you live it. Say yes to YES (Youth Exchange and study) program!

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