Grateful for student exchange program

I am a high school student from Turkey. I have spent the last nine months of my life in Marshalltown and attended Marshalltown High School as an exchange student. These months have been the most unforgettable ones for me. My exchange program is funded by the United States Department of State, with Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS) through the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program. The YES Program was created in 2002 by the U.S. Department of State to build bridges of cultural understanding between countries all around the world.

I am thankful for the wonderful community of Marshalltown, I was amazed by how nice each and every person who I met during my journey. I am also grateful for all of the opportunities available that I do not have back home. I have completed more than 120 hours of community service, as thanks and a way to give back to the community that made me feel home. I realized the importance of volunteering my time, and the feeling I get after I complete a community service is indescribable. When I came here, my goal was to learn about the United States way of life as well as to teach about Turkey; simply create a cultural exchange. I got the chance to present about my country in different platforms such as Marshalltown Evening Lions Club, Lioness Club, Kiwanis Clubs and Morning Optimist Club. I was on the debate team, a writer for Pebbles; became a part of National Honor Society and participated in the Key Club at school. I am glad to have stayed in Marshalltown to experience so many great things.

My plan is to take what I learned about life in Iowa to improve my community in Turkey. Listening to each other is all we need to do to create a better, peaceful world. I am so happy to say that the stereotypes I unconsciously had before I came here have faded away as I became involved in my host community. I want to thank IRIS, my placement organization in Ames, IA and last but not least, I want to thank my host family, Dewaine, Sandy, Hillary and Hannah Thomae in Marshalltown. Every single day, they made sure that I was having the best time, a year full of unique experiences. They were so open to learn about my culture and teach me theirs. They were with me on this journey and will remain forever in my heart.

If you want to host a YES student like me, please contact IRIS (www.iris-center.org).