As an exchange student to the United States under the Kennedy Lugar Youth and Exchange Program, I was hosted in a beautiful city call Baltimore located in the state of Maryland.

My biggest challenge there was overcoming homesickness. I had never felt so lonely before and I was missing home terribly. I did make some friends, but I still felt my life was lacking communication. After sharing my problems with my local coordinator, she told me I was on the right track as I was aware of my problem and was seeking resolution. She helped me understand that I had to start somewhere because I should enjoy my exchange experience to the fullest and not have any regrets once it was over. So, I tried harder, reaching out to make new friends in school and finding out about their interests and investing in them. It was difficult, but I slowly and surely opened up. I found I could smile more as I got to know more about people around me and our shared interests.

Despite feeling lonely in the early period of my stay, I enjoyed my time with my host parents. I was treated like the only child as all their children had grown up and lived elsewhere on their own. My favourite moments in the United States were travelling to different states with my host parents. Every time when we travel, I felt I was seeing a whole different world. I realized every state has its own beauty. I also enjoyed the time sharing about my beloved country to my classmates. The interest shown on their faces gave me more courage and confidence to explain about the different cultures and races in Malaysia. The more I shared, the more I understood, appreciated and loved my country for its uniqueness.

The AFS program has shaped me to love volunteering. It made me realize how blessed I am when I saw so many homeless and hungry people in my host community coming in droves to the community’s soup kitchen for shelter and food. The AFS program has truly taught me to be grateful for the small things in life and to be kind to others.