I am in India!!!
About two months ago I found out that I was one of 50 students across the U.S. selected for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad Program, a full scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State. It is a high school exchange program offered to high school and gap year students to study abroad for about 10 months in one of 10 countries with Muslim populations (India, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Ghana, Mali, Oman, Morocco, and Egypt, although the Egypt program was canceled this year).
The YES Program was founded by Senators Kennedy and Lugar after 9/11 to promote understanding between the United States and countries with Muslim populations. About 1,000 high school students from 39 countries around the world are hosted across the U.S. each year on this scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State. The program is very competitive because so many students want to come to the U.S., and it is a merit-based scholarship that is available to students from families of all income levels. They live with a host family, attend school, teach people about their culture and religion, and learn about ours, for an academic year. When they go home, they teach people there about American culture. I was lucky enough to live in a community where many YES students (as well as some exchange students from other programs) have been hosted throughout my years in high school.
Two years ago, the YES Abroad program was founded. YES Abroad is basically the same thing as YES, an exchange scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State to promote understanding between the U.S. and countries with Muslim populations, but it is for American students who wish to study abroad. It is not as competitive as the YES program, because a) it's very new and not that many people know about it (please spread the word!!!) and b) not as many American teens want to study abroad, especially in the countries offered, whereas lots of teens around the world want to come to America. Two years ago they sent the first group of YES Abroad students, and last year the program was on hiatus, so I am part of the second group of YES Abroad students. I applied with a written application in January, and in March I was notified that I was a semi-finalist. I and 74 other semi-finalists were flown to Denver where we had three days of interviews, workshops, and group evaluations. A few anxious weeks later I found out that I would be going to India!
Although most YES Abroad students are leaving the U.S. at the end of August or early September, because of the school year difference students going to Thailand and India left at the beginning of July, and students going to Malaysia will leave this week. School actually started here more than a month ago.
I have been very busy and so haven't had a lot of time to write this blog, but soon I will write about orientation in Washington D.C., my arrival here, first impressions, and the beginning of my exchange experience. Please do keep in touch, and although I may not have time to respond, I do check facebook and email regularly.