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YES Abroad Alumni Spotlight: Eden Zaborowski

YES Abroad 20th Alumni Spotlight Series logo

By Eden Zaborowski, YES Abroad 2020-2021, Morocco

What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alum of the YES Abroad program?

Since becoming an alum of YES Abroad, I have been apply the skills I learned in the program to have a number of interesting life experiences. In 2022, I had the chance to intern with the US Department of State, where I got to see diplomacy at work firsthand. This had been a goal of mine since high school and I credit YES with giving me the leadership and problem solving skills to be successful in this internship. After this, I was awarded a full scholarship from my university to spend a summer studying abroad in Amman, Jordan where expanded my Arabic language skills further. This past summer, I also completed an open-source intelligence analysis internship with a DC-based think tank. In this role, I used my Arabic language skills and understanding of Arab culture to track political events in the Levant. YES's emphasis on community involvement and citizen diplomacy also motivated me to volunteer to teach ESL in an Afghan refugee camp in my local, which was a humbling experience which has motivated me to learn more about refugee issues and reaffirmed my belief in the importance of diplomacy.

What are some of your favorite memories from the YES Abroad program?

I loved studying Moroccan Arabic and French with the other members of my cohorts. I have so many fond memories of laughing through classes as we learned new grammar concepts and discussed cultural differences between the US and Morocco. When I had my 18th birthday, my cohort celebrated by learning to sing "Happy Birthday" in Arabic. Since this was my first birthday away from home, the gesture was more meaningful than anyone probably knew. Because I love to cook, I especially enjoyed our Moroccan cooking demonstrations. Cooking chicken tagine and semolina cake were my favorites, and I still love to make this recipes now that I'm back home in Indiana.

Eden smiling in a selfie with three other friends inside of a mosque

What are some of the ways you’ve stayed connected to fellow alumni since your exchange experience? What about your host family or friends that you met abroad?

I study Arabic and Middle Eastern cultures at the Hamilton-Lugar School of Global and International Studies alongside a fellow alumni, where we both frequently use the lessons we learned through our programs. It seems fitting that both YES and our school are named after Senator Lugar, a fact which I especially love as a Hoosier! Social media has also allowed me to stay connected to members of the Morocco cohort and I love to see each new cohort enjoying their year abroad. I also appreciate all the alumni events which allow me to connect with and learn from other YES Abroad graduates. While interning at the Department of State, I also met two other YES Abroad alumni, which was a fun coincidence. I love seeing my fellow alumni using their experiences to create meaningful and interesting careers!

How did the YES Abroad program impact you professionally? What about personally?

The YES Abroad program has had many positive impacts for me professionally. It taught me skills such as leadership, problem solving, cross cultural communication, and how to have respectful discussions about sensitive topics. YES Abroad's status as a well-respected program within the international studies field means that it has opened numerous doors for me professionally. Even four years later, I still discuss my experiences with YES Abroad in job interviews. I would not have been as prepared for my Department of State or open source intelligence analysis internships without the lessons I learned from YES Abroad. Ultimately, the most important lesson that YES Abroad taught me was never to underestimate myself, which has motivated to push myself professionally.

What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES Abroad program participants?

My biggest piece of advice for current or future YES Abroad program participants would be to remember that studying abroad is not always easy. There will be moments where you feel frustrated or homesick, which is totally normal! Thankfully, your fellow program participants are experiencing the same emotions and are a great resource for difficult days.

In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES Abroad program will be?

In 10, 20, or even 30 years, I hope that the legacy of YES Abroad will be the way it prepared young Americans to build genuine connections with people who are different from them. In the future, the YES Abroad alumni will be government officials, community leaders, and change-makers. We will carry the lessons we learned in the program to these roles and hopefully use them to be more empathetic and peaceful global citizens.