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YES Abroad Alumni Spotlight: Isaac Malka

YES Abroad 20th Alumni Spotlight Series logo

By Isaac Malka YES Abroad 2021-2022 (virtual), 2022-2023 (in person) Morocco

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

Since finishing the YES Abroad program I have started my undergraduate studies at Brandeis University. I spent my first semester of college studying in London where I learned British culture and history like I did while in Morocco with YES Abroad. I was able to continue my learning about foreign countries and their culture.

A crowd in the street at night with a red flare shooting up

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

After moving back to the US I look back to my fondest memories of being abroad. A few memories stick out to me the most. Being in Morocco during the World Cup and seeing its effects on people was truly an amazing experience. In 2022 Morocco became the first African and Muslim country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, a feat that many saw as impossible. During Morocco's winning streak, after the games, the streets became filled with life, unlike during the game when they were quiet with everyone inside watching the game. After Morocco's team won people old and young would pour onto the streets in celebration of their nation. It was one of the purest forms of pride in one's nation that I have seen. There would be music and dancing, laughing and tears, flares, and excitement. People would light flares and dance with them in the streets in celebration. People would throw their friends in the air and everyone would be singing. The experience of living in Morocco during this time is truly something that I will never forget.

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?

Since moving back to the US after my time in Morocco I have tried to keep up the relationships I made while abroad whether by instagram messaging with my classmates or whatsapp calls with my host family. Since leaving my host family, I have kept in touch by sending birthday and holiday messages along with calls to see how they were after the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco in september. My schoolmates and I send each other messages and sports updates when we are all watching the same games even if we live thousands of miles apart. I am so thankful that I am able to keep up the relationships that I made while living in Morocco as they were such an integral part of my time living there.

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

The YES Abroad program has helped me in so many different ways. Professionally it has helped me get into college. Everything that I learned while abroad will be an integral part of what I bring to workplaces in the future. Personally YES Abroad helped me grow as a person in so many ways. From learning how to navigate a new city to learning how to navigate an entirely different culture and set of cultural norms. Another invaluable skill that I learned while in Morocco was the importance of the value of other cultures. There were many things that I did not understand when I first moved to morocco, but as time went on I grew to understand them and grew to appreciate them.

Isaac in a suit smiling in a group photo with host family, who are dressed in festive Moroccan clothing

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

To any current or future YES Abroad participants I would recommend always having an open mind. There were so many times where I thought one thing but would soon come to realize the exact opposite was true. Many things will not make sense at the beginning or even the middle of your program but as time moves on things about your new home will become more and more clean with an open mind. And even if you feel like at the end of your time abroad you still don't understand things that's totally normal and okay. You can't expect to move to a foreign country and miraculously in one year understand everything about it. The number one thing to keep in mind is that wanting to learn about your host community will be the only way you can learn about it.

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

In the coming decades I hope that the YES Abroad program will continue to grow and serve as a community of people who all have gone through similar experiences and share a vision for the world. The YES Abroad community is one of incredible support and of many perspectives, I hope for these to continue to grow and for the program to continue to reach its goals of helping to create a more interconnected world one cross-cultural relationship at a time.