Manual goes around the world

Manual goes around the world

This post was submitted by Anna Keyzer.

Mia Mercer (10, MST) has spent the past year abroad in Malaysia as part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program that was created in order to cultivate cultural understanding between the United States and countries with majority muslim populations.

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, offers a full academic year scholarship to American high school students and recent graduates to live abroad in countries with significant Muslim populations.

As part of the scholarship, YES Abroad covers student costs related to round-trip airfare and room and board for the Pre-Departure Orientation, round-trip airfare between the participant’s home region and community abroad, in-country support, cultural activities, school tuition, room and board with a host family, medical benefits, visa fees and a modest stipend.

Mercer heard about this scholarship opportunity through an ex-coworker who was taking a gap year before college to go to Morocco and study Arabic.

“The central ambition of the program, to make the world a more tolerating and understanding place though immersion, really resonates with me as someone who wants to see the world, and see it in a more peaceful state too,” Mercer said.

Students going abroad live with host families and attend a local high school with intentions to promote a mutual understanding between their cultures and develop lasting relationships with their local community.

The ambitious goals of this scholarship attract students that are self driven and eager to explore new cultures.

“I feel like in today’s world, people get very caught up in media portrayals of different groups, stereotypes and generalizations without any understanding of why people might behave that way or what their thought process might be either,” Mercer said.

“I’ve learned that there’s always more to each side of the story, and there’s always more to be learned,” Mercer said.

Although this is scholarship provides a great opportunity for students, it’s not for everyone.  

Students are expected to take on the commitments and responsibilities of their local host community and fully emerge themselves in their culture as cultural understanding and mutual respect is an important part of the exchange.

Ellen Williams (10,YPAS) was inspired by and Mercer and will be studying abroad her junior year in Malaysia through this scholarship.

“I’ve learned in-depth about different cultural practices, religions, and more from not only Malaysia, but also places all over the world too. Pushing myself way out of my comfort zone nearly everyday has allowed me to find out a lot about myself too.” Mercer said.

To find out more information, visit this link.