Mahinour El Badrawi
Alex to Wisconsin
I would like to share the highlights of my AFS exchange year on the YES exchange program 2004-2005.
First of all, during the preparatory stage, prior to my exchange experience, I learned to be more of an open and social person, getting to know and deal with people from different areas and backgrounds within my own country that I never thought I’d never be in contact with. Now we make great friends!
Then, my actual year abroad changed or let’s says developed my personality and broadened my universe a great deal!
Let's start with high school: My high school had a great range of diversity. We had Hmong students, African American students, very few Arabs, Asians and about 11 exchange students from the Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea, and other places.
Looking back at my experience, I can truly say from the bottom of my heart that my host family has been the cherry on top of a wonderful year.
My host mom, a wonderful human being, worked as an English tutor for Hmong new residents in the community. She attended a lot of their cultural and traditional ceremonies to which she always invited me to come to and be part of. She was a great lady who valued diversity and respected all different cultures, including my own; she even reminded me to do my 5 daily prayers on time and made sure I had proper food during Ramadan, and arranged family dinners to be at the same time I break my fast.
My host dad, a Community Service Professor at UWEC University, Wisconsin, opened a wide window for me to attend a lot of activities on campus that definitely added to my intercultural experience. I didn’t only get to explore the high school life of young people of my same age, but also part of the college life in my host country which was a very exciting matter for me to learn about.
I can say that this year taught me a lot: The ability to interact and successfully communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures that are totally different from my own. To accept and respect diversity in nationality, race, religion and/or ethical backgrounds. I also learned to be more responsible and broad minded about my own thoughts, beliefs and awareness of the world and what goes on around us. I am more able now to make up my own mind and not simply listen to what media has got to impose on us.
Finally, and most importantly, through this year abroad that AFS-Egypt offered me, I got the chance to be a true ambassador for my country in the United States. Not only Egypt, but for the Arab World and Muslim youth. Just sticking to our rich and beautiful values and ethics was enough to represent a good image of who we truly are and perhaps change a negative idea or stereotype that one might have about the Muslim World the Arab or the Middle East in general.
At the end, I feel that I am satisfied about this amazing life experience that I had , for I was able to build eternal bridges between my host family and I / my natural family.
Or, on broader scale, between both cultures and nations, I believe such experiences help make the World a smaller more understanding, loving and peaceful place.