StoriesBack to Stories

YES Abroad Alumni Spotlight: Nimet Yesil

YES Abroad 20th Alumni Spotlight Series logo

By Nimet Yesil, YES Abroad 2021-2022, North Macedonia

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

Right after my YES Abroad experience, I participated in the AFS Global STEM Changemakers program in Brazil, which helped me further develop both my global awareness and diplomatic skills that I had gained through YES Abroad. In Macedonia, I had volunteered with the United Nations Development Programme and Dimitar Vlahov ‘The State School for Visually Impaired Children,” and in Brazil, I developed a project that drew from both of these enriching experiences. I am currently a student at Harvard University and my year abroad has sincerely impacted my future aspirations. My interests are vast, but I am consistently drawn to the intersection between engineering, education, and global competence. This summer I will be interning as an Amazon Future Engineer Scholar. I hope to continue pursuing more international experiences and build on the skills I’ve gained through YES Abroad.

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

Some of my favorite memories from the program are from our language trips. Skopje is an amazing city, but towns like Prilep and Ohrid are especially unique. I loved learning about the history of each place and getting to experience various facets of Macedonia. I particularly enjoyed visiting the colorful Eastern Orthodox churches. Additionally, many of my favorite memories are from the times I spent with my host family. We had an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, albeit I don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving back in the States. Just goes to show how considerate they are and how I got to experience so many new things with them. I could go on for ages about all the amazing people I’ve met!

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?

Our cohort has had a group chat since the beginning of our program. At first, it was a little awkward, but as the months passed, we began to depend on one another. We still keep in touch. I’ve met up with a couple of them and it is always very nostalgic. My host family and I exchange the occasional email; I love getting updates on Berta, the family dog whom I miss very much. I stay in touch with friends through social media, we’ll call and catch up. Sometimes it makes me feel old!

The colorful interior of an orthodox church

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

Professionally, YES Abroad developed my communication skills. Approaching difficult topics with empathy and understanding was a necessity in Eastern Europe. Becoming conversational in Macedonian has also been a great advantage, and I hope to continue both my language practice and global communication skills. Furthermore, volunteering with the United Nations Development Programme has opened doors to various other international non-profits. I can see myself working with organizations like Engineers Without Borders or the Peace Corps in the future. Studying abroad has made me confident. If I can survive a year abroad at the age of sixteen, I think I can handle whatever life may throw at me.

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

YES Abroad is a life-changing experience, as every “YES Abroader” has stated a million times before me. It’s not a year-long vacation, but rather, an opportunity to explore the world and yourself. Through the trials, joys, hardships, and lifelong memories that come along with studying abroad, you will discover aspects of your character that you never even knew existed. You’ll come out of the experience changed.

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

I hope the YES Abroad will extend its program ever further. During my time studying abroad in Macedonia, my friend Grace and I were conversing about how great it would be if the YES Abroad program extended to our countries: Kazakhstan and Nigeria. The FLEX-Abroad program was introduced right afterwards, but we have yet to see a program for Nigeria. I believe that YES Abroad has the potential to reach every corner of the globe and unite students under a joint cause: cultural exchange.