Advancing disability rights and leadership globally®

My Golden Year in America

Safira gardening as a volunteer with other exchange students
Safira gardening as a volunteer with other exchange students

While attending her host schools in Kentucky, high school exchange student Safira Bibi cultivated talents for sports and public speaking.

I am 17 years old and an ASSE YES Exchange student from Karachi, Pakistan. I was very excited to get the opportunity to come to the United States of America. This was something that I prayed for and it was like a dream come true.

I am visually impaired and have had very little vision my entire life. In Pakistan, where I attended a school for the blind, there are many challenges and few opportunities for blind people. I’ve learned the opposite is true here in the U.S. What I’ve learned here [in the US] is more than I could possibly write about in a few short paragraphs.

It was very important for me to know that I was going to have a new home and a new family for 10 months. It was kind of scary at first. I wondered if I would be accepted. Fortunately, I got a wonderful family in the Jones family. My host mom, Maria, my host dad, Kenny and my host siblings, Kenny Jr., Alicia and Cameron are not just my family; rather they were good guides, good friends, good teachers and good role models for me. They taught me what family needs to look like, how to respect and care for each other, and how loving family and God are important.

Like other blind students in my home country, I had to write my own books without experiences or training. I didn’t get a good education in my county. I was barely able to speak English, but when I got here I found that I was able to study science, math and U.S. history.

I attend the Kentucky School for the Blind (K.S.B.) in Louisville, Kentucky. My teachers helped me a lot. My English teacher in particular worked specifically with me and told me that her goal would be that one day I will be able to study with the other American students. I learned the real meaning of education and how to get a good education.

I learned that education is not just about getting your degree; it benefits you for the rest of your life.

At Kentucky School for the Blind, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in every single activity. I participated in track, cheerleading, and forensics, which is a public speaking competition. I really enjoy public speaking. I got second place in forensics and received 3 ribbons from my participation in track.

I’ve learned to use the long white cane to travel independently. I spend my weekends & holidays with my wonderful host family and weekdays I learn skills to live independently. I have also accomplished the goal to attend school with other American students. Half of the school day, I attend Central High School in Louisville, where I’ve made lots of friends. I really love my school.

Safira was recognized as Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Student of the Month just prior to returning to her home in Karachi, Pakistan.

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