I'm leaving for India in about two months. In response to any confusion, I did receive the full scholarship through YES Abroad to go to India for a year. This is a great honor as it was a very competitive process and I expect with each year it is granted to more US students, the more competitive it will get (to learn more about YES, go to http://www.yesprograms.org) .
Info on being a YES recipient:
As a YES student, I'm expected to attend a total of 5 conference calls, 2 of which have already happened. Each conference calls talks about different aspects of our exchange, what we should expect and what we are required to do. One of the conference calls is country specific so that the recipients of each country scholarship get a chance to talk to their peers and supervisors about being in that country. Along with me are four other recipients of the scholarship to India like all of the other countries (35 scholarships= 5 scholarships per country).
Along with this, like all exchange students, I have attended a Pre-Departure Orientation with AFS in my local chapter which is one day long (it is required!). AFS also provides a program called Culture Trek that YES supports us using in order to prepare for the exchange experience. These are very good programs read through and participate with. Although AFS and YES will not be checking up on our progress with these, it's a good idea to look at them. We all think we'll be just fine but I read through the booklet provided and was stunned with how much I have to consider! Being an exchange student is not an easy task.
For prospective students:
As with any commitment, being a YES scholar becomes a priority over everything. Receiving money does set you up for many responsibilities. You are expected to stay with the program the entire year unless there is a severe medical emergency or a death in the immediate family. I'm not trying to scare you but this is something to consider. You will hear this over and over again but even if an important event like prom or a meet is happening back in America and you want to attend, you can't. You are going to be an unofficial ambassador for your country, community, gender, ethnicity and this goes for being an exchange student anywhere. You should be prepared and you have to want to be in your host country.
Okay enough with that lecture :D and back to YES. While in India, in addition to being with a host family and going to school, the recipients also get to participate in community service type and culture activities. I'm not quite sure what this entails, but it sounds interesting and fun. I'm looking forward to experiencing as much of India as I can. Since I got the scholarship, the host family previously selected for me has to change since they want us to be in "clusters" for support and so that we can readily get together for activities. Atleast that's what I got out of it. It's always good to have others that you know in the area.
Personally, I have started to learn hindi slowly along with thinking about the packing and other miscellaneous things. I won't lie, it's sad to think about leaving everything and everyone I know to go live in a different country. I probably already mentioned this but I hope with this exchange I become much more confident with myself and others as well as being more worldly aware. Starting over with a clean slate in a new country where no one knows you is a refreshing and scary thought but it also means that you can just be. You may not be happy all the time but this is just one chapter in your life that will affect everything.
To my fellow YES recepeients, congratulations on making it here. I'm sure we'll have loads of fun mixed with misunderstandings and mayhem. Let's keep an open mind and listen to everyone we meet. I'm sure that there will be a story to tell at the end of every day even if it's a short one. And let's be realistic here. We're going to change and having any expectations about what will happen in our host countries is a silly idea. We can't always change others no matter what we do so trying will not help. The best we can do is participate and observe, making the most of our experience.
Hm well I don't know how enjoyable my blog will seeing how I keep getting serious :] I will try my best to be as accurate about my exchange process as possible to help you see what I'm going through. This might just be my main way of telling most of my friends what is going on but I would love it if people will send me letter while I'm over there. As soon as I find out my host family, I will give you the address to send letters to.
Until then, shantih