The first group of the 2013-2014 Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) students arrived in Iowa on Friday, August 9. Throughout the weekend, the fifteen students stayed with short-term host families in the Ames, Boone and Nevada area as they went through orientation training.
Our orientation helps the YES students better understand what to expect during their 10-month stay in Iowa, along with what to expect while living with a host family. Additionally, it teaches the YES students a little bit about the United States and Iowa, before they embark on their American adventure.
One of the most important aspects of the YES students’ orientation was their interaction with one another. As the students from eleven different countries met each other, they were very eager to teach one another about their home country and culture.
As the YES students waited for lunch, they taught each other some of their native languages. They also exchanged what the word “Iowa” means in their language. Laura Hutapea and Jana Blaybel explained that “Iowa” means “yes” in their native tongues, which makes the connection between the YES program and Iowa even more profound.
As the students exchanged email addresses and Facebook information, the YES students received their backpacks, which IRIS provides. While the IRIS staff explained all the items in the backpacks, the students had to resist the urge to search through their bags.
Everyone was very excited to meet the first group of YES students. However, nobody was more excited than the students’ host families. After the host families received their own orientation session, the YES students met them for the first time. Immediately, host families and YES students embraced one another.
Families and students alike were thrilled to learn more about one another. Throughout lunch, host families and YES students shared common interests and become more acquainted with each other.
Sunday, August 11 was very special for one particular YES student. In addition to meeting her host family for the first time, it was also a birthday celebration for YES student Anupama, which resulted in a resounding singing of the “Happy Birthday” song and another wonderful memory for this young lady as she begins her year in Iowa.
IRIS was very eager to meet the YES students this past weekend, and we are even more excited to get to know them throughout the year. August is an exciting month for IRIS, and we look forward to meeting all of the YES students as they arrive in Iowa to begin their YES program year.