I Came as a Stranger and Leave as a Friend

March 28, 2012 -- A YES Indonesian Student hosted in Georgia reflects on his transformative year as an exchange student in the U.S.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away” --Anonymous.

I still remember the moment when I have to leave my family, friends and country. I was so sad, since they are the ones that I love. It’s not an easy decision; it is a big decision for a teenager like me to leave them to be an ambassador of my country in the world. I am lying if I wasn’t crying at that time. It’s hard for me staying here for the first month; I miss my family, friends and my country Indonesia. I don’t have anyone that I know here in USA, I just hold tight to my faith and realize that this is the path that God chose for me.

Even though I missed them so much, I was amazed and feeling grateful being one of 70 students of my country staying one year in USA. I still remember how excited I was when I stepped my foot in USA for the first time, it’s like the excitement of little kids that just got candy in Thanksgiving Day. I was so excited and it feels like a bird that flies for the first time, happiness, excitement, and nervous is the best word to describe what I feel at that time. I was so nervous to meet my host family, meet my new friends and socialize with my new environment.

Previously I thought that all Americans are rich, stereotype, and are rude to strangers like me, since I watch a lot of American movies that shows me about that. When I come here, being one of them, sharing opinions and seeing by my own eyes, I got the opposite result from what I thought. Not all Americans are rich, there are still poverty and jobless in America. Not all Americans are rude to stranger like me either, the fact is I found out my host family, friends and environment are really welcoming to me, and one day I walked around my neighborhood and I was just amazed that people smile at me and really giving me great courtesy even though they don’t know me. My family takes care of me like their own child, and my friends love me like their own family. I just learned a great value of life that this phrase includes “Don’t judge a book from the cover." People usually judge from what they see not what they know, and it really changed my point of view of something, and I don’t want to judge something until I see and feel it by myself.

"This experience is really changing my life, I learn so many things that I never know before. The love they give to me will be immortal in my heart."

I am Muslim, and I know what happened in the past, 9/11, war in Iraq and other stuff that included the controversy about Islam. I live now in a place where most of the population is Non-Muslim; I have so many friends from different religious background such as: Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Baha’i. I never feel discrimination about my religion, and I never feel as a separate entity with them. They really appreciate what I believe, and so do I. I go to the church with my liaison even though I am Muslim, I love the people there, they appreciate what I believe and I do appreciate them and love sharing opinions with them. Even though we are surrounded by much differences but one thing that makes us close together, that is the power to understand and appreciate each other.

This experience is really changing my life, I learn so many things that I never know before. The love that they give to me will be immortal in my heart. I don’t know why I still can’t believe that I just have three and a half months left here, I don’t remember times but I do remember moments, so many moments that I spent here will never be forgettable. I love my friends, my family, my teachers and everyone that I met here. Everything that I wanted it was more than I thought it could be. I never regret being an exchange student, as the time goes by, I just realize that how proud I am being an exchange student!

“I come as a stranger and I leave as a friend”

Thank you KL YES Program, AFS and all of my friends.
With love,
Maharaja Arizona
Indonesia