Each year, members of the Ayusa Headquarters staff head out into the field and visit numerous cities hosting our exchange students. These visits, Ayusa deems HEART visits, are required by the State Department for YES students. However, Ayusa also uses these visits as an opportunity to talk with many of our host families, students, schools, and community members about their experiences.
On a recent visit to Phoenix, Arizona, our staff member was able to talk with many students. Below is a Q&A with one of the students, Kiran. Kiran, an Ayusa student with the YES program, is from Pakistan and is studying at Central High School. She says her experiences here in America have profoundly changed her, leaving her feeling more independent and courageous.
You are from a beautiful part of Pakistan. What would you like people to know about where you grew up?
I am not a city girl. I grew up in a small town called Hunza, situated in the north of Pakistan, surrounded by beautiful huge snowy mountains. Hunza is famous for its natural beauty. People there are very welcoming. Many tourists come every year to visit Hunza, especially in the summer.
The history of the United States made you want to visit and study there. What parts of American history interest you most and why?
The American lifestyle that developed because of the independent nature of the Americans is what most interests me.
What were your first impressions of Phoenix when you arrived?
I was so excited to hear that I'm placed in Phoenix, Arizona. When I left the airport, the first thing that got to me was how hot it was. Although no one seemed to mind, they just kept working and that was very impressive. Houses were different styles that I was used to seen in Pakistan.
You’ve been involved with the Key Club and Adventures Club at your school in Phoenix. What have you gotten out of that experience?
Well, the first thing about being involved in these clubs, it is the best way of making friends. The experiences I learned are how to interact with people and how to work together. No matter how different you are and where you are from, still you work together as a team. Also I am very involved in several volunteering activities, including reading to kids at the homeless shelter, at the library and at the large community events, like the Phoenix marathon race.
When you return to Pakistan, how do you think you will be different as a result of your student exchange experience?
It's been five months into my exchange year and I can see a lot of change in me. I am not the one I was before coming to USA. The way I think and the way I do things is totally different. I feel much more independent and courageous. I am willing to try new things. I will be able to encourage other kids, able to share my experience. Probably the biggest change is I will be able to attempt to further my education out of the country or be able to get into a good university in Pakistan.
How do you think host families and schools can make it easier for exchange students?
Well, the families should be open and non-judgmental and if they are friendly and caring that makes a lot more easier for exchange students - and my host family is more like that. To be honest, I love them, I am so lucky having such a family. They made my whole exchange year easier and happy. Schools should arrange a person to help the exchange student for the first few weeks.
Do you have any advice for students who are thinking of studying in another country?
My advice for students is that they should apply for scholarships to study in another country. They will have experience they may not have otherwise. I want to tell them that just say YES and JUST DO IT!!!