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The Impact of Exchange: Coming Together


By Elijah S., YES Abroad 2016-2017, Bulgaria

During the holidays, Rachel and I met up with the YES Bulgaria Alumni who had spent an exchange year in the United States. We are the first YES Abroad students in Bulgaria, so this first meeting was a new experience for all of us. In talking with the alumni, it was really interesting to hear perspectives about exchange, the U.S., Bulgaria, and international relations from people who have spent time in both countries, going through a lot of what we are experiencing right now on exchange. Of course, more trivial things were brought up too, like what the best food in the U.S. or Bulgaria is and funny stories about cultural misunderstandings and such.

We met in the holiday spirit, as the YES alumni had organized a campaign to raise money for a charity assisting people with Alzheimer's. Together, we made Christmas cards for the alumni to sell to raise money. While the day was fun and beneficial, it also brought us together as a group of current and former exchange students. Being able to see that these alumni have kept in touch since their exchange year and are now more active in their community was kind of incredible, and really showed me yet again the power that programs like YES can have to bring people together and support a more inclusive community.