When MIUSA interviewed Senka Mekic for our AWAY journal, she was preparing to say good-bye to her host family after nine months in the United States on the American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE) program. Back home in Serbia, Senka is completing her senior year in high school and preparing to apply to college; she plans to study at a university in Turkey.
Reflecting back on her exchange experience, Senka says her time in the U.S. made her more aware of her abilities. Her parents agree and feel that she is more independent as well.
“My life goals didn’t change, but my exchange experience made me more confident that I am going to succeed in my future plans.”
Senka’s goal is to become a disability coordinator for the A-SMYLE program and increase the number of students with disabilities who participate in the program. Senka is one of just four students with disabilities who participated in the A-SMYLE program over a four year period.
“I want to help disabled students become aware of their abilities and in that way change the position of disabled people in my country.”
While Senka’s family raised her to fight for herself, she recognizes that exclusion exists for people with disabilities.
“It’s very important for students with disabilities to participate in exchange programs because it is an eye opening experience in every way. It helps students become aware that they are capable of doing a lot of things they were told they couldn’t do. Studying abroad makes them aware of the chance for exclusion to change.”
Read more about Senka’s experience applying for and living in the U.S. in the Table of Contents.