A YES Student Reflects on a Life-Changing Decision

A YES Student Reflects on a Life-Changing Decision

Jumana, an American Councils student from Bahrain placed in Iowa for the 2016-17 school year, reflects on the decision to apply for the YES program and how this has impacted her life so far.


Teens and extreme rollercoasters have similarities; they both have many ups and downs. They both have high points that they reach but eventually know that in any minute things can go downhill. Some go through life-changing decisions that can completely rotate their lives like a rollercoaster that rotates 360 degrees. In fact, I made a decision that absolutely changed my entire life. I guess you can say I’m a fifteen-year-old living proof. A simple email that confirmed my acceptance to be in an exchange program determined the journey that will be with me for the rest of my life. I’ll go back to where it all started.

A year ago, I found fliers hanging on the light poles in the streets of my hometown in Bahrain and saw multiple news articles that include information about a one-year scholarship to the United States and the chance to be a student in one of the American high schools for a whole academic year. I found it an awesome opportunity so I went for it, I did what was required and passed every stage that the program has set. After a couple of months, all I thought about was how to be ready for my travel. After a phase of going through arguments with my Mom, Dad, relatives and friends, after spending countless hours modifying my travel list with the things that I have to bring, I finally prepared myself to face the bigger challenge.

The night of September 5, 2016 was my departure date. I strolled my 50-pound bag and my carry-on and knocked on my mom’s wooden door. “Mom can you please help me take the bags downstairs?” I said with a heavy sigh. “Yeah, sure, honey. Coming in a second,” Mom said. I ended up dragging them myself because I felt that my stress somehow had a voice. I could hear every molecule in my nervous system screaming from all the pressure that I was exposed to. I tried itching a lot, that did not help calming me down. I kept everything ready in the front of the main door, yet that did not help a bit in clearing my mind. I heard the tapping of my mom’s heels on the tiles and that somehow helped me keep my sanity because nothing sounds better than the sound of heels tapping on tiles. Grandma came and called:

“Joujou, are you ready?”

I said, “Yeah, ready as I will ever be.”

“Did you pack some tights? I heard about how cold the U.S. is.”

“Yes, Grandma,” I said that with a small giggle.

We kept the luggage in the trunk, buckled seat belts and hit the gas pedal. As usual, I had to glare and stare at the buildings and the lights. However, that time was different. My heart was full because it has been fed by the love that I gained from the glare.

We reached the airport, carried the luggage to the check in, weighed it and made sure there was no excess weight. But wait, that didn’t mean it was time for goodbyes! We had to wait for my travel mates. As we were waiting, my best friend decided to surprise me and cheer me up.

I was a hardcore believer that time in the saying, “Laughter is the medicine towards all sorrow.” After forty-five minutes of waiting for my travel mates, the time had come. The five words that came in different ways from different people: “Take care, I love you.” I grabbed my mom’s arms hard and gave her a big bear hug. The smell of her perfume filled up my nostrils, her lipstick wiped off on my sky blue jacket. Tears dropped on my scarf, which made one big spot two shades darker.

If goodbyes don’t exist, life will be dull. These two hours spent led to being in a place that made me solve the puzzle of my personality. Before this experience, I didn’t know my capabilities, which made me confused and lost. I experienced many things here that even my wild imagination didn’t expect. Finding out that I was eligible for this program helped me and others gain a new respect towards myself. “You can do it, just don’t forget us!” was a common reply I received from my loved ones. They said their goodbyes and wished me good luck. They know very well that the old me will soar around a world that has no exits. As a result, a new mature me would settle.