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YES Alumnus Spotlight: Tanmay from India

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Meet Tanmay from India

Tanmay Chopra, a YES alumnus from India, remembers being fascinated about different cultures since his early childhood. “The notion that we’re all humans and possess rich diverseness sort of beguiles me positively.” After learning about the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program through another alumnus, Tanmay was encouraged to apply and to consider the possibility of an academic year in the U.S.

“United States culture can be seen through television and other methods. But, through the [YES] program, it can be experienced. That made all the difference [for me].”

Close up headshot photo of Tanmay smiling.
Headshot of Tanmay, YES alumnus from India.

Tanmay, who is blind, had his reservations. He recalls wondering how he would fit in with his host family, and if they would know how to accommodate his disability. He was unsure whether his high school peers would accept him, and wondered if being disabled might amplify the culture shock that all international students expected to experience. “That made the process much more complicated and scary. I was the only student with a disability from India in 2016-2017 to make such an excursion.” Despite his concerns, Tanmay applied and was accepted into the prestigious YES program.

Arriving in the U.S.

When he first arrived in the U.S., Tanmay joined 30 other YES and FLEX students with disabilities from various countries in Eugene, Oregon for a 5-day Preparatory Workshop hosted by MIUSA. The MIUSA workshop gives students an opportunity to learn about disability rights laws in the U.S., explore what accommodations might be useful for them as students and members of their U.S. communities, and meet other students with disabilities about to embark on similar journeys.

Group of students standing outside of a school talking to one another.
Tanmay (left) chatting with other students during MIUSA’s Preparatory Workshop visit to a local high school.

“It was in Eugene [at the MIUSA Workshop] where I truly gained my confidence back. By the time the workshop ended, I knew I will do just fine. The notion of self-advocacy remains an intrinsic part of my personality to this day.” -Tanmay, YES Alumnus

Among the many highlights of his exchange year in Ohio, Tanmay recalls experiencing snowfall for the first time. “I was the only person [in my host family] looking happy to shovel snow.” He also had the opportunity to attend a Civic Education Workshop in Washington D.C. While visiting D.C., he interacted with State Department officials, and toured various world famous museums and memorial sites.

When reflecting on his exchange experience, Tanmay shared what he learned about himself. “I realize how much I used to overthink the initial stages of any project. You just need initial courage, and your new-found confidence will take care of the rest.”

Tanmay’s Advice: “Do it!”

Now an active alumnus, Tanmay has powerful advice for other disabled students considering YES or FLEX: “Do it. It is going to be a year you will not stop talking about the rest of your life. For students with disabilities, you will see different technologies and might find tools to empower yourself and others.”

“At the end of the day, let’s not forget that you are choosing to leave the comfort of your own country to make a voyage to a different country in your teens. Such confidence is not easy to muster. From here and now, you are a different person.”

Click here to read about Tanmay and other alumni with disabilities selected as YES Students of the Month.

Click here to read a day by day account of MIUSA’s 2023 Preparatory Workshop for students with disabilities.

Author: Megan P

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