IRIS YES Students Celebrate Last Semester and Prepare for Next in Mid-Year Meeting

IRIS YES Students Celebrate Last Semester and Prepare for Next in Mid-Year Meeting

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 1.31.03 PMAll 25 YES students gathered in Des Moines December 7th – 8th for the annual IRIS Mid-Year meeting. During the weekend, students reflected on last semester, prepared for next semester, and participated in group activities.

Scattered across Iowa, IRIS YES students do not often get the chance to be in the same place at the same time.  Mid-Year was a great opportunity for them to bond.

“It is amazing how you can be able to meet people from different parts of the world and realize how different you are and at the same time you can feel that connection between you. They know exactly how you feel and just like that they become your absolute best friends even though you only see most of them three or four times during your year,” YES student Israa (Tunisia), who appreciated the time spent with other YES students.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 1.31.13 PMOver the weekend, students divided into discussion groups and shared their experiences as YES students in Iowa. Communication and host family relationships were popular topics. Language can be a barrier, but students are developing tools to communicate effectively.

Students shared how they showed appreciation to their host families by taking on projects with initiative, spending time with their host families, learning about life in Iowa, and building relationships. Many realized they had a great opportunity to teach Iowans about about their countries.

“I learned a lot of things especially about trying to help others understand where you come from and willing to learn others culture as they learn yours,” Rachael (Nigeria) recognized.

Reflecting on their last semester at school, students admitted their challenges and celebrated their success.

Students exchanged strategies for getting involved in school. Many IRIS YES students have gone out for sports, band, theatre, and volunteer clubs. Gideon (Nigeria) found that it’s important “to really get involved in our communities.”

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Another mid-year activity encouraged students to set goals.

Inspired, students set personal goals ranging from becoming more involved in music and theatre to improving their relationship with their host family.

On Saturday, students split into teams for a group activity that challenged them to build a bridge using only a shoebox, wooden sticks, paper clips, rope, and binder clips. The bridge that could hold the most stones was the winner. All had fun and improved their team work and communication skills.

IRIS YES Program Assistant, Tim Glaza, was happy with the event and impressed by the students.

“I was inspired by watching a very diverse group of students come together to build bridges, figuratively and literally, share their experiences, and to help each other become better exchange students,” Glaza said.

There was time for fun throughout the weekend, too.

Excited about the holiday season, the students saw an IMAX presentation of the Polar Express, ate at Spaghetti Works, played a spin-off version of bingo, and appreciated the time they spent together.

cardThe weekend concluded with a holiday card making activity. IRIS YES students designed cards for patients at the Blank Children’s Hospital.

Students left the Mid-Year meeting excited to use their new skills as they finish the second half of their time in America.

“When I am with other YES Students I feel as if I’m with the next (….) fellow leaders of the world,” Nathan (South Africa) said.

Students would not have this opportunity without the incredible support from our host families.

Interested in hosting? Call 515-292-7103 or email  Learn more about hosting on our Ask IRIS page!