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U.S. Department of State’s March 2024 American Abroad Student of the Month

Rahil standing with another man beside the U.S. and Bulgarian flags

Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad participant, Rahil Siddiqi, is the U.S. Department of State’s March 2024 American Abroad Student of the Month. Rahil is from San Marino, California, and is currently attending high school in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Rahil has created an impressive network of relationships through his time on program, demonstrating a passion to help others and an openness to connect to Bulgaria. A critical goal for Rahil was to create a strong foundation at home, investing time and building a relationship with his host family. Despite the initial language barrier and differences in communication styles, he has been able to learn much about his new country’s customs and language. “My favorite memory so far,” Rahil shares, “is our winter break vacation to Varna, where I was able to meet the extended family for the first time. As I am close with my extended family back home, I was glad to have been able to meet them and participate in Bulgarian Christmas and feel at home at a time where many exchange students miss home.”

Rahil smiling with friends in a group picture in a park
Rahil with friends at the Solidarity Project training

Another goal for Rahil was to build community, and he has done just that. Through various events held by YES inbound program alumni, Rahil has met many Bulgarian friends who were themselves exchange students in the U.S. Since American football was not available in Sofia, Rahil has channeled his love for sports into rugby, which quickly became a highlight of his exchange experience. “I've been able to become a member of the city's touch rugby team. Being on that team has been awesome. I’ve made friends that I most likely wouldn't have met since the members of the team - both Bulgarian and foreigners - come from all walks of life.”

One of Rahil’s most gratifying and humbling experiences on program has been his volunteer work at the organization Solidarity Project, whose mission is to support the well-being and education of refugee and at-risk children in Bulgaria. At Solidarity Project, Rahil takes on many roles including teaching English, public speaking, and history to a classroom of refugee children, teens, and adults. He also leads excursions around Sofia and translates between Urdu, English, and Bulgarian when needed. Through his work with the Solidarity Project, Rahil was selected to participate in two funded volunteer training programs in Poland and Belgium. Rahil shared that his training in Poland was a phenomenal experience as the workshops taught him different skills he hopes to use when he gets back home to the Los Angeles area by volunteering at youth or refugee centers. Rahil’s community and peers are continually impressed by his leadership, kindness, and open-mindedness. We can’t wait to hear about all the adventures Rahil will have on the rest of his exchange!

Congrats, Rahil!