This year is not just a year to have fun, make memories and see the other side of the world; it is actually far more than this for me. I believe it is a once in a life time opportunity to experience all that you never would’ve been able to. For me, it’s like one golden year of my life. So much has changed since the day I came to America as an exchange student. I have grown from an immature to a mature girl, to a more sensible person and most importantly, I have learned to be independent and to deal with my problems on my own.
My exchange year is full of new and exciting experiences. It all began with a flight landing on the Las Vegas airport. I was both very excited and very nervous about how things are going to turn out. Slowly and gradually, I adapted to my new world. I made new friends, adjusted with my hosts and my experience started. I got busy, keeping myself engaged with trying new things such as ice skating.
The first month, I admit, was difficult, but with guidance and support of people around me, I didn’t lose hope. Soon, I had friends from different countries. Our placement organization took group trips to California, Disney Land, Arizona. I got to do fun stuff like hiking, ice skating, and made a difference in my community through volunteering at school, in parks, babysitting, visiting health organizations etc. I also got a membership in a community center. I became part of the Debate club, the Multi-cultural club and the National Honour Society at my school. I gave presentations about Pakistan at my school, and tried to debunk some stereotypes.
I took all advantage from all these things and tried making the most of every opportunity that was offered to me. By volunteering, I got a new spirit to help people without being selfish and loved it so much that I’ve done 70 hours of community service till now. The presentations about my culture and country gave me confidence and made me feel more proud about my country when students gave positive responses. In the school clubs, I got to try debating, something which I like a lot. I participated in different tournaments and won a medal as well. In the Multi- cultural club, I got to know about a lot of different countries. My school newspaper interviewed me twice and and I also got published in newspaper. My classmates now fondly call me the “Algebra Doctor.”
While in US, I also got to experience and celebrate some American holidays such as Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving – events I wouldn’t ever have been able to enjoy back home. I love hanging out with my host sisters, and dinner with my family. This year has truly been unforgettable for me!
Even though this year is slowly coming to an end, and I have to go back home, I am not sad because I gained so much during this program. For me, it truly was a whole life in one year.
Ayesha Zakir is a student from Abbotabad, Pakistan, currently spending her school year in Las Vegas, Nevada as part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program. For more information, please visit www.yesprograms.org.