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Whitney Ndusilo (left) and Anna Ngowi (right) prepare to ride the Sidewinder.

As June comes to a close, the IRIS staff says their farewells to the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) students, who will soon leave Iowa and go back to their home countries. There is a lot to do before the YES students embark on their journeys back home. However, the YES students did not depart without one last day to spend with one another.

On Monday June 10, Brittany Haga and Sara Schoneberg, program assistants for IRIS, along with Kelsey Hartnett, Desirae Trammell and Chelsea Jackson, previous public relations intern and current public relations interns, respectively, took the YES students to Adventureland in Altoona, IA.

The students had much of the day to explore the amusement park, go on rides, and hang out with friends. Adventureland was a great choice for a final enhancement trip, because it created a great memory for the students. “I haven’t been to an amusement park since I was in the sixth grade, so it felt nice to go back,” YES student Meutia Hakim said.

For some YES students, the day at Adventureland was ripe with the opportunity to experience something new. “My favorite ride was the Raging River. I felt like I was swimming, even though I cannot swim. It was like traveling on a boat without actually having to move. It was also relaxing, because we were just floating in a river,” YES student Lawuna Dashua said.

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Abdulkadri Maalim, Meutia Hakim, Ryan, and Diyah Pertiwi (left to right) pose for a group photo to commemorate their last enhancement trip together. Nuraineen Wama is also seen in the background.

However, this final fun-filled trip is only a reminder of the YES students’ departure. “I have mixed emotions about leaving. But I’m more excited to leave, because I love and miss my hometown, family and friends,” Hakim said.

“I am kind of excited to go home, but I am really sad I am leaving Iowa. But I have mixed emotions about returning home, it might actually be harder than it was for me to leave home,” Dashua said. Though most of the YES students have mixed feelings about leaving, all of the students are excited about going home.

After the prolonged time away from their homes, many students had developed homesickness during some part of their stay. “I am excited to see my family again, but I am sad that I have to leave, because I love it here. I have had so much fun, and I love my host family so much,” YES student Nuraineen Wama said.

During their last few days in the United States, the YES students reflected on their journey. “My favorite part of the YES program was meeting new friends from all around the world. And I know that we will all be lifelong friends. I will use everything I have learned during my stay here to adapt to my lifestyle in my home country. I will use this knowledge through my entire life,” Wama said.

Throughout their time in Iowa, the YES students have made several lasting memories. “I would like to thank IRIS and the KL-YES program for giving me this wonderful opportunity to come to the United States and for making it such a wonderful experience and year,” Dashua said.

Although the students’ time in the YES program is coming to a close, some of the students have promising plans for the future. “I don’t want to expect other people to make a difference. I want to actively make a difference myself. I will start with small things first, like using less paper and less water. Then, I will move onto bigger things, like starting an English course for elementary school kids. For the 2013-2014 curriculum, they will get rid of the English subject in my hometown,” Hakim said. She explains that knowing and learning the English language is very important, because English is an international language.

Program Assistant Brittany Haga, former Public Relations intern Kelsey Hartnett, and the YES students pose for a goofy group photo on a train ride.
Program Assistant Brittany Haga, former Public Relations intern Kelsey Hartnett and the YES students pose for a goofy group photo on the A-train.

IRIS is proud to help, through the YES program, these young people on their pathways to success. The YES program has opened doors to copious opportunities, which have enriched the students’ knowledge and perspective of the world around them. IRIS also encourages our current students, and all of our alumni, to keep us updated on their progression in life. Furthermore, the YES students’ determination will hopefully inspire others to change the world too.

We will miss seeing your faces in Iowa but look forward to hearing of your successes around the world!

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