by Martin Al-Bazi
Since the day we got back home, I've been feeling like I’m nowhere. I find it hard to fit in again...
by Iea Rabbee
I started to feel weird the moment I put my feet on the ground of Washington, D.C. at the end of IYLEP
by Shireen Aziz
The GAL (Guarding Alumni Lungs) Project is about saving the health and environment in Iraq by raising awareness...
by Zamen Alsamar'y
When I left home I was so afraid. I had so many doubts, and I didn’t know what to expect or what to do.
We will also be moving our blog posts from this blog to the new Tumblr as well. In the meantime, feel free to check out the archives here!
World Learning Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program Team
Written by: Karrar Abdulkaree, 2013 IYLEP participant
The interview day was just like the first page of a new book in which I will complete one of my greatest goals in life, crossing cultures. Before the day of the visa interview, I was preparing the papers that I need for my interview and I started to think about the ways to ensure I take advantage of each minute–whether it be on the interview day or during the IYLEP trip.
Since I believe that any new step in life is a useful experience, I’m looking forward to having a lot of interesting time with the new people that I will soon know very well, my fellow IYLEPers. On my way to Baghdad, I was so happy to find my friend from school was there too and some other friends from Karbala.
We talked all the way there, and I felt so happy to learn how cultural they were. When we arrived in Baghdad at the Flowers Land Hotel, everyone was a little bit tired, so we went to our rooms. What I found nice was that even in our tiredness, we were able to continue talking for a long time with a special, friendly people.
After a while, we met Ms. Mayada and I met the other IYLEPers from the other provinces. I really found special hope glitter in their eyes. I felt so comfortable at the time, but what I noticed was that the others were worrying about the interview and there was kind of confusing feeling in the air. I told them that there was no need to worry sand that we just have to be ourselves and be honest.
Then, I went to Aljadriya Street with some of my friends. We had a nice time, or what I call precious moments. Then we got back hotel and we were supposed to sleep, but we had a nice gathering, so we only ended up sleeping for only 3 hours.
In the morning, we were supposed to wake up at 5 a.m. but for me and my roommates we woke up at 4:30A.M. I wrote a few words to sing in English, which is a hobby of mine. When I went downstairs, I found all other IYLEPers. After checking our attendance, we went to the U.S. Embassy and after some check points and a few conversations which turned out to be an unforgettable memory, I found myself in the interview.
This was the nicest part: when I talked with the consular officer who was so so friendly. The questions were so simple and it was just a simple conversation for few minutes ending with the magical words, “Your visa is approved!” I just felt so happy.
When we got back to hotel, we took pictures and we said not goodbye, but rather, “See you soon” because we are all waiting to reunite with the same people from Iraq and more of our peers from the United States in a few months.
Finally, I’d like to share my belief with all future IYLEPers and with all other students that you have all to be comfortable in each step you take because you have a great treasure in your hands, which is knowledge and a creative mind. For the IYLEP experience, always be yourself– just that. Make a note of this. Every step is going to be so simple. Remember, my friend, that everyone can create a special experience, building great friendships and memories.
Written by Hannah Kim, IYLEP 2012 participant
As the first anniversary of my time at IYLEP approaches, I think back to last summer and am instantly transported back to that time. I remember my growing excitement as that day approached (July 25th for me!), how nervous I was to meet my fellow Cleveland IYLEPers, the staff, and, of course, all the Iraqis, panicking over whether I had packed enough stuff, if everyone would like me, how my host family would be, the inevitable joy and laughter of just being with my fellow IYLEPers, and finally how devastated I was when the month ended. Never in my life have I felt so wholeheartedly accepted by a group of people and been surrounded by so much love and support.
There are a few things that I remember: how it was constantly raining the first week in Vermont and how I was really disappointed because I wanted every single day that the Iraqis were here to be the most beautiful day that Vermont had ever seen. Going to John’s house and swimming, looking at the scenic countryside straight out of a painting, and singing songs together as the sun slowly died in the West. The seemingly never-ending van drive to Boston which, by the way, had no AC, exploring the beautiful city of Boston in an extensive scavenger hunt, and going to the beach with my Iraqi sister, Yasameen. How close I grew to my Boston group – Jack, Mary, Deo, MJ, Yasameen, Yaqeen, Sara, Zamo, Miran, Sophie, and Pam – but how anxious I was to see the entirety of the group again. That last week in Washington D.C. was especially bittersweet. Our reunion with each other mingled joy and the underlying sadness of eventual departure. As we left the 4-H Club in Maryland to go to the airport I burst into tears. I think one of the reasons why I was so sad was because I knew everyone else, now part of my family, felt the same way. Although this wasn’t goodbye forever, it was certainly the end of something.
I’ll be spending next year in Samsun, Turkey through another State Department funded program – NSLI-Y. I’m almost positive that I wouldn’t have gotten the scholarship without the experiences that I got through IYLEP. I’m hoping that when I’m in Turkey my Iraqi friends will be able to visit me and that we will get our reunion.
Even though Cleveland is not one of the cities involved in IYLEP this year, I hope that every single participant from the various other cities has a fantastic time, as I know you will. This post is a thank you to everyone who allowed me to have this experience and subsequent experiences and a message to 2013 IYLEPers and other future IYLEPers.
2013 IYLEPers, enjoy it. Bask in the love, bask in the sadness, take in every single emotion that you experience. Give everything you have to these people because they will respond wholeheartedly, they will cry and laugh and smile and dance (I should note that Iraqis dance really, REALLY well) with you, and it will be one of the best experiences of your life. Let yourself really enjoy your time with these people because this is an experience that you need to be immersed in. Live in the moment.
Written by Rand Al-Omari, IYLEP 2012 Participant
Last year, when I first received the email from the embassy telling me that I got the visa to the USA, meaning that I was going to experience IYLEP, I felt like the happiest person on this planet. It felt like a dream of mine was coming true.
I started to find photos and watch videos of previous IYLEPers and got super excited. A few months later, I went to the US and then I returned back to Iraq…and now, I am still an IYLEPer. The moment the airplane landed in Iraq, I discovered that it was like a dream! You can never imagine that feeling unless you live it.
In the past two days, I started thinking about IYLEP again and I discovered that it’s been a year since I received that amazing email with its cheerful title, “Congratulations”. I just can’t stop missing IYLEP and thinking about all the good feelings I had at that time.
I just wanted to tell the new IYLEPers that you guys should know that you are the luckiest people ever. You will never realize that until you guys go to the US and live the experience…so you should just make the most of every single moment, forget about everything else, and live the best month in your life and of course don’t forget to take photos EVERYWHERE…wish you guys best of luck.
Written by Ibrahim Riyadh, 2012 IYLEP Participant
Is it scheduled for March 7th, April 13th, or neither? After some scheduling changes, everybody was eagerly waiting for the Reunion Conference. Already 7 months had passed since the last time we were together; we did not know what we were most excited for: to have fun, for the things we would learn and remember during the Youth Development Conference, or to be reunited with our beloved staff!
We started by sharing magnificent stories about the work we have done on our community service projects, which include: environmental projects, charity projects, awareness raising projects, etc. We also spent time in workshops, improving our skills, meeting local leaders and representatives from local organizations, and we were even hosted at the US Consulate in Erbil.
The staff led us in an activity that helped us to remember our summer in the United States. We all brainstormed, “What we shared”, “Where we went”, “What we did”, “What we gained”, “Who we met”, etc. (All the “W” questions). Everyone had so many memories, that each question had many, many answers.
We also spent some really fun time together – as is proven by the little sleep that we got – singing our favorite songs: “The Watermelon Song” and “Shied Abu al Sipa”, playing games (especially one about truth) and enjoying being in the group again. Everything was more fun because of the group of people that we were with.
Finally I will say that being a part of a group, or a team, like what we experienced at the Reunion – and actually as we still are – is the best thing you will ever experience in your life. With a team you can have fun, share your dreams and ideas of how to improve upon the issues that you see, and learn from each other.