Foreign exchange students shares her culture with CHS


Photo Courtesy of Yumna Owais

Yumna Owais is new to CHS

By Jasmine Baten, Opinions Editor

The average CHS student has a 10-20 minute commute from school to home. If Yumna Owais wants to go home, she’ll have to take a 17 hour plane ride.

Senior Yumna Owais is an exchange student from Pakistan participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program provides an opportunity for students from mostly Muslim countries to attend school in the U.S. for one academic year.

“It allows me to experience American culture and share my own with my host community,” Owais said. “I love to interact with such a diverse group of people and establish strong friendly relationships with them. I think this program provides me with an opportunity to talk about the rich and vibrant culture of Pakistan.”

According to the YES website, the program was established in response to the events of 9/11 to supply a grassroots source of information and example of how Muslim youths act. The high schoolers participate in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures.

“I decided to apply for this program because I wanted to learn new things and meet new people,” Owais said. “I can brush up my English spoken language while living here, explore my hidden talents and overcome my fears.”

The program matches each student with an American host family and American school There are other exchange students from countries including Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon attending schools throughout the United States, but Owais is the only student in her chapter of the program to attend CHS.

Placement organizations like iEarn and American Field Service (AFS), worked with YES to place her with a host family and enroll her in schools prior to her arrival.

“I just applied for YES scholarship and out of thousands, I got selected,” Owais said. “It could have placed me anywhere around the U.S..”

As most CHS students and staff know, the academic rigor and atmosphere at CHS can be a bit of a shock to any newcomer, much less a newcomer to the country.

“Churchill is totally different from the school back in my country—classes, lockers, subjects, textbooks, students and teachers—everything is just so different,” Owais said. “There’s a lot of homework here, especially for a person like me, who’s new to the school and country.”

Despite the heavy course load we all know and love, Owais maintains a positive attitude about her program’s mission and her time in the U.S.

“I am looking forward to removing stereotypes in the minds of people here about my country and sharing some of its positive features,” Owais said. “An exchange year is called ‘Life in a Year,’ and I want to live it to the best.”