At the beginning of June, departure approached, and IRIS decided to take the YES students and hit the road!

IRIS planned out an eventful weekend for the YES students, which turned out to be a great time for bonding between the students and the IRIS staff, and also doubled as a send-off trip and an end-of-year wrap-up orientation.

The gathering’s objective was to bring the students together and explore how much they have grown since completing the program. IRIS staff spent the past few months planning many activities beyond Mount Rushmore and other tourist locations; games, breakout and reflection sessions, and campfire jams added to the fun of the trip.

The group departed from Iowa on Thursday, June 4th, and traveled back on the 7th. IRIS’s YES Program Coordinators, Mary and Gina, chaperoned the students alongside two other YES alumni; Paul Johnson and Lawal Saliu, who are both from Nigeria and were back in Iowa pursuing higher education.


Pre-departure anxiety kicking in
Pre-departure anxiety kicking


Travel day to the KOA campsite!

The long bus ride wasn’t that big of a snooze-fest! The students engaged in a competitive game of charades and kept each other company throughout the whole ride.





The day started early with a reflecting session with the students.

Some of the topics they discussed were what have they learned throughout their stay here in Iowa, some of the challenges they’ve faced and how they dealt with them. One question they had to answer was, “What was the biggest adjustment you had to do coming here?” The students gave a long list of answers, and some of them were: being outspoken, living with their host siblings, and adjusting to a different school system. A prominent action that they all had to take upon coming to America was to get out of their comfort zones, and seeing them now as they are is proof that the students have definitely conquered that challenge. Another activity questioned the students on how they coped with homesickness. From sharing feelings to friends, host families, local coordinators, and teachers to delving into extracurricular activities, it sounded like these students are already a pro at combatting homesickness!

Then, the group took a tour to the Cosmos Mystery Area to let loose and have some fun!



DAY 3IMG_0188_1IMG_0194

In the morning, the students took a trip to Mount Rushmore.

After that, they went back to the campsite for more sessions.One of the sessions was lead by Paul and Lawal, the YES alumni who helped chaperone. Paul and Lawal, both hailing from Nigeria, discussed ways to be an ambassador for their community. From giving back to their community, to helping the new students transition into their exchange year, the YES students learned a lot from their seniors and are hopeful that they will contribute significantly to their communities back home.

The group capped off the night with a dance party at the campground and a certificate-giving ceremony where the students received their End of Year Completion certificates issued by the U.S. State Department. Mary and Gina also gave them a little present by awarding the students special, funny certificates for the students to remember them by.




The next day was dedicated to traveling back to Iowa where the students spent their last days in Ames before their departure for their respective home-countries. It was definitely a memorable trip, just like how the students described it below:


IRIS hopes that this trip has been beneficial to all the students. We at IRIS, treasure this special moment spent with all of you and will continue to follow your success stories for years to come. Watch this space for more posts on the students’ advice to future exchange students!

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