Alaa Mufleh did not know what to expect when she left Jordan and headed to Chicago, Illinois for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.
"The YES program was definitely a life changing experience," says Alaa. "I had a lot of ideas [about the U.S.], and a lot of expectations. Most of my ideas were from the media, and you can only imagine what ideas those were."
During her time with the YES program, Alaa had the chance to be a part of two wonderful host families.
"I learned a lot by living with my host families," says Alaa "The first one was a single older person that introduced me to most of American culture and helped me get an idea of the community around me. My second family was kind enough to have me stay at their house and treat me like one of their own kids for a good period of time. I am grateful forever for both host families."
Although Alaa learned a lot from her host families, she realized that adjusting to a new culture and new family comes with its own growing pains.
"There was a huge age difference between me and my first host mom," says Alaa. "She worked all the time, and I was expecting her to have siblings in the family and interact with more people. So, that was hard."
"The adjustment to the education system was hard because the education system we have in Jordan is quite different than the education system here. I went to Schaumburg High School, about 30 minutes away from Chicago. There were 2700 students at that school. Everything was so organized and the teachers were so nice."
Alaa truly enjoyed learning about the American culture and wanted to introduce her own culture to the students at Schaumburg High School.
"I started an Arabic program with the gifted students in the school," states Alaa. "By the end of the year, I received Christmas cards from the students with their names in Arabic and they were able to speak basic words to me."
By the end of her YES Program experience, Alaa had conquered fears, acquired new skills, and ultimately changed the course of her life forever.
"The YES program was a life changing experience for me," says Alaa. "I'm so glad it was not an easy experience because I would have never turned out to be the person I am today. My best experience was the chance to meet so many amazing people and learn from their experiences. I learned that there is great richness in diversity, and each person had an impact on me that changed me in a way."
"I was just a normal kid, very shy and could never stand up for what I believed in. But right now I am the president of the alumni chapter. I have my own NGO and I want to be the first female Prime Minister of Jordan. I am willing to stand up for what I believe in and fight for what it is I want and not let anything get in the way of achieving my dreams."