Life in the U.S. / Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight – Zainab from Pakistan

Today we shine the spotlight on Zainab from Pakistan! She is studying in Wisconsin with the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Read on to hear more about Zainab’s favorite experiences with her host family, her friends and at school as well as what her exchange experience has taught her so far!

What’s your favorite experience with your host family so far?

There are a lot of experiences that I can talk about but my favorite one would be when we went to Wisconsin Dells. This was in September, a month after I came here to America. It was a 3 hour drive and I surprisingly didn’t get car sick. When we got there it was night so we spent a night in a hotel and the next day we went shopping and right after that we went on the boat tour. It was amazing seeing all the rock formations and different types of people coming there to enjoy. It was a long ride and right after it ended, we made our way to ride a horse. This was my first time riding a horse all by myself through the woods and up and down the hills. Next day we went to the Wisconsin water park where I rode a giant roller coaster for the very first time and went on it a couple of times until I felt sick, then we made our way to the waterpark, again this was my first time going to a water parks with giant slides and wave pool. I had to learn how to swim within 2 minutes as a wave would hit and water would go up my nose. It was not pleasant. By the end of the day I was sunburned and my skin was all dry because of chlorine but it was also the most amazing day during my time here. 

(top) Zainab and her host parents, Susan and Michael, enjoying a boat ride at Wisconsin Dells (bottom left) Zainab and her host parents on their wedding day (congratulations!!!) (bottom center) Zainab having fun at the water park (bottom right) Zainab cuddling with her host family’s dog.

What’s your favorite experience at school so far?

In school my most favorite memory would be the Homecoming week. Back home we don’t have Homecoming so having the whole week dedicated to Homecoming was fun as I got to dress up every day of the week according to the theme. I think what made it even more special was probably that the person I wanted to go with asked me to Homecoming. I still remember I didn’t have heels with my dress and I went shopping with my mom and I asked her why we couldn’t find the shoes I wanted and she laughed and said “honey you are looking for open toed shoes in Wisconsin during the month of October” but I did find the shoes I wanted, though they were a little tight and really painful. I had a lot of fun decorating the school halls and lockers and on the day of Homecoming I got ready with my friends and spent an amazing night with them all.

Zainab (1st person on the right) and her friends having fun at Homecoming

Have you started any new hobbies or interests while in the U.S.?

Yes, I have! I joined as a backstage crew for theatre when I first came and made my way to doing lights for theatre. It was the best decision I made as I learned how to operate a light board and went to state with my whole team and got the opportunity to do the lights at the state competition along with one other friend. I also joined basketball and I was not good at it at first as I had never even touched a basketball before but now that I look at myself, I’ve come a long way so I would love to teach my friends about what I learned back home. I remember I was so enthusiastic when I first joined that I told my parents that I would open an academy to teach basketball to girls.

(top left) Zainab (back row, 2nd from the left) and her theater team going to state (bottom left) Zainab (being carried) and the lights crew having fun (right) Zainab (right) and her basketball teammates during a time-out.

What has your exchange experience taught you about yourself?

I was never the type to take lead as I’m a shy person in front of a lot of people and like to stay back. Public speaking was a big no for me. When I was choosing my subjects for my first semester, the principal had suggested I take communications class which is basically where you do speeches. I had to join because I couldn’t join anything else that hour and because the teacher seemed really nice. It was the best decision I made as I became more confident and didn’t have that much problem being in front of a lot of people. I also learned to be mature and independent and how to manage all my problems all by myself so I’m really proud of myself as I couldn’t have done that back home where children are usually pampered by their parents.

Every year in November, International Education Week (IEW) celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. During IEW, all YES students give presentations in their American communities about their home country. (left) Zainab and her host parents are wearing traditional Pakistani attire during one of Zainab’s presentations (top right) Zainab (middle holding the Pakistani flag) and her friends during IEW (bottom right) Zainab (1st person on the right) posing with a class after giving a presentation about her home country Pakistan with her host dad.

What do you enjoy doing with your American friends?

My friends are making my exchange extra special as they are really committed to making sure that I try everything I haven’t done before back home like ice skating, ice fishing, making a snowman, experiencing Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. My best friend here is Sierra and she matches my crackhead energy perfectly. We do lights together in the theatre and I’ve made a lot of funny memories with her. I honestly didn’t expect to become this close with her in just 4 months but we are inseparable which is quite alarming because it’s going to be hard to leave her at the end of my exchange and I will miss her a lot.

(left) Zainab and her friends carving pumpkins (top center) Zainab (3rd person from the right) and her friends getting ready for Halloween (bottom center) Zainab (kneeling) and her friends celebrating Zainab’s half-birthday (right) Zainab (left) and her best friend Sierra after a cross country meet.

Would you like to make a student like Zainab part of your family this upcoming school year? Check out the profiles of our amazing 2022/23 students!