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From Bahrain to the U.S. - Sayed's YES Journey

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Sayed remembers having the desire to study abroad since he was a young child. “The opportunity to study abroad, especially in the United States as an exchange student, seemed like the perfect way to challenge myself academically while immersing myself in a new environment that I don’t know anything about.”

Sayed, who lives in Bahrain, first heard about the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program from one of his father’s friends. While initially hesitant, Sayed’s family encouraged him to apply. He soon found himself completing the application, exams, and interviews. Not long after, he was selected to study in the U.S. as a YES student in the 2021-22 cohort.

Close up of Sayed, a young Bahraini man, with his arm around a grey and white dog.
Sayed with his host family’s dog, Franklin, during his year in the U.S. as a YES student.

Preparing for an Exciting and “Daunting” Journey

While he was excited to embark on this long-awaited adventure, Sayed, who has low vision, also had some reservations. “I had concerns about how my visual impairment and limited English proficiency at the beginning would be perceived. I was apprehensive about how I would be received by my host family and school, given my reliance on technology for reading and writing.”

“The prospect of navigating unfamiliar surroundings alone was daunting, especially considering I had never been allowed to venture outside on my own at home [in Bahrain]. The feeling of being a stranger in a foreign land added to my apprehension. But soon enough, this foreign land became like my second home.” – Sayed, YES 2021-22

Sayed, along with other disabled YES and FLEX students from around the world, attended MIUSA’s Preparatory Workshop before arriving in his host community. MIUSA’s workshop empowers students with disabilities to know their rights and to advocate for accommodations while in the U.S.

“MIUSA emphasized the importance of “accommodations,” which is a term I continue to use to this day,” Sayed recalls.

Reflecting on the Impact of Exchange

Now an accomplished alumnus of the YES program, Sayed reflects back on the impact of his exchange experience:

“During my exchange year, I discovered a profound sense of independence and self-determination. As a visually impaired student, I realized the importance of advocating for myself and pursuing my passions without limitations. Unlike back home, where I faced restrictions on the subjects I could study, I found myself empowered to enroll in any class that piqued my interest.”

“This newfound freedom allowed me to flourish and embrace my true potential. From this experience, I internalized the belief that individuals with disabilities are fully capable of achieving success in any endeavor they choose, given the necessary accommodations and support. It reinforced my conviction that disability should never be a barrier to pursuing one’s dreams and aspirations.”

“My advice to other students with disabilities considering applying is simple yet powerful: If you want to do it, you can do it.” – Sayed, YES 2021-22

Group of high school exchange students standing on rocky surface in a park with trees behind them.
Sayed (far right) at Sequiota Park in Missouri with several other international exchange students.

 

From Mongolia to Arizona: Click here to read about Azzaya’s FLEX experience

Click here to learn more about MIUSA’s Preparatory Workshop

Author: Megan P

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