Many students, having returned from the US, are gushing over their times there, academic and otherwise.
“It was really a fantastic experience in my life, living with a US family,” said Aimen Saleem, who returned after completing one year of high school under the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme.
The US embassy organised an iftar dinner to commemorate the alumni’s return on Tuesday.
“It has definitely changed my perception towards the US citizens and vice versa,” Aimen added. She went to the US State of Arkansas and lived with an American family for 10 months. The 10th grader from Waqarul-Nisa High School Rawalpindi said she was “really impressed” by the hospitality and respect she received over there.
She added that the host families keep the students like their own children and care for them “better than their own kids.”
“We learnt how to adjust to a new country, society and most importantly, a family in a strange environment,” she said, adding that she also found some “dependable friends” in America.
In schools, besides the curricular activities, she said, they were involved in extra-curricular activities including sports, essay and story writing and debate activities.
However, talking about the perception of the US families towards Pakistanis, she said that she was shocked to hear that they think of Pakistanis to be backward and still using “camels for transportation”.
Another alumni, Qaneeta Haseeb, said that the US culture has given them confidence and taught them to sharpen their skills.
“Every child should have such exposure and use it to bring positive change in the society,” she remarked. Inspiring for Qaneeta was the sincerity, honesty and humbleness shown by her host family and others, something that she said she was “not expecting”.
“How the world is different from what is presented by media!” she commented. Brent Beemer, the Cultural Attaché of the US Embassy said that YES is one of the largest programmes of the US for the international visitors since the end of the World War II, which welcomes high school students from different countries.
Through this programme, the students sent to the villages and towns of the US to involve them in the community services with the US families, which broaden their understanding about the American culture.
These students, alongside learning a lot from the US, also know the cultural diversities and social values of the US. The embassy provides opportunities to people of diverse background aimed at making them understand the US culture.
“People-to-people interaction will be helpful in overcoming the misunderstanding between the two countries,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.
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