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YES Abroad

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YES Abroad

Bellamoon Kelly-Cragun, Writer

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Do you want the chance to create a lifelong relationship with people from across the globe? Do you enjoy stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things? These are just a couple of the incredible opportunities YES Abroad provides for the adventure seeking teen. The Kennedy Yugar Youth Exchange and Study, YES abroad is a competitive full-merit scholarship program through the state that costs NO money. It’s one of the few programs you will find that offers a full-scholarship exchange. All expenses are paid for by the state, plus you’re given a stipend every month to cover any other needs/wants your host family cannot provide. The only eligibility requirements for filling out an application is that you were born between March 24th 1998 and September 9th 2001, are a high school student at the time of filling the application out, and that you’re a US citizen.

This incredible program was established after the devastating terrorist attacks on 9/11 to create more of a cultural understanding and end Islamophobia. This particular program stands out because it allows students to give back by spreading knowledge, information, and personal experience. Many speak highly of the program, among them are Senior Elsa Boyd a former member who traveled to Turkey in the 2015-2016 school year for ten months. She discussed how it allowed her to be a spokesperson for America as she actually served as a youth ambassador of the United States. She experienced a lot of personal growth occurred throughout her journey and through that she became more of a leader. Now she is looking into exchange programs in college to continue to become more culturally aware and understanding.

The goals of the program stated on the website include “promoting mutual understanding between the U.S and YES Abroad countries by creating lasting relationships.” The application, due December 1st, is compiled of basic personal information, a ranking of your top countries, and five written essays. After you submit you will get a reply within the next month or so to set up an interview that may either be in person, with multiple other participants, over phone, or over skype. Every interview process has it’s own benefits and setbacks, but if you’re passionate you will be able to express how you feel in any of these situations! If you’re thinking about applying, definitely DO IT! You have nothing to lose. The single YES Abroad student at our school Senior Gamze Öztürk from Turkey encourages you to apply the program saying “It is a good opportunity to have a better understanding about countries we don’t know, or we know wrong things about! With this program, I had a chance to know more about the US, to have a family here, and to have friends all around the world.” An estimated 2,000 people apply/interview every year. 120 of those people move on to Washington D.C and there 65 finalist are selected to go to one of the 11 countries. The countries for the 2016-2017 academic year (subject to change) include Turkey, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Senegal, Thailand, Macedonia, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Senior Beth Taormina said “I was told by one of my interviewers at the selection event in DC that the program matches kids with countries based off their personalities and where they think you’ll adapt best, so in a sense the ranking only plays a small role in the placement process.” They are always keeping your best interest in mind. If you have any worries concerning safety do not fret! Host families are carefully selected based on recommendation of the local community and are then screened and interviewed by AFS staff or volunteers to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants. If a medical emergency occurs in the host country, YES abroad has established a secondary medical plan to treat students around the clock. The program consults with the U.S Department of State to monitor the safety of students.

Keep in mind everyone’s experiences vary based on where they go, who they are, and who their host family is. No exchange is typical, and all are challenging. The program length is one full-academic year which normally ranges between 9 and 11 months. Freshman Nyssa Sterner gives the perspective of someone who thought long and hard about the opportunity “I really admire people who apply and end up going to different countries and I really like to travel but I don’t think I could handle being away from home for so long.” If you have any possible interest I highly encourage you to apply online at www.Yes-abroad.org

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