UT Austin’s International Office hosted the Iraqi Young Leader Exchange Program on campus summer 2015, bringing 25 undergraduate students from Iraq to Austin for a “Law, Leadership, and Social Justice” institute. ISSS invited these students to share stories about their experience in Austin and their life back home in Iraq on the blog. Applications are now open for IYLEP 2016.
As I was preparing to apply for IYLEP this time last year, I was not nervous about my trip or who I might meet. I was only worried and nervous that I might not have the chance to experience that one month of joy and excellent adventure in a totally different country. However, I was selected for IYLEP!
As the days were passing, and I was getting closer to the flight day, my very first trip outside of Iraq, my father’s only advice was, “Koraw, I want you to come back with an excellent certificate.” With his words in my ears and echoing in my mind, I joined the first orientation at The University of Texas at Austin. I still remember the very first day and the subjects discussed during the lectures. It encouraged me to read more and participate in every debate that the professor arranged. In addition to the amazing lectures and workshops, we had weekly activities that helped me find my hidden talents. They helped me know more about myself, and those activities made up a better and skillful Koraw. I have learned a lot in this program and from the people I have met during my journey. They all helped awaken talents and skills in me that I am so proud of now.
Every little thing I have learned in the United States, I have written down in a small notebook. Most of the ideas are hung in my mind, and they have been reflected in my personality. As soon as I arrived back, I started my summer class along with my part time job as an accountant and an advertising agent. Now my fall semester has started, and I had to resign my position at work because I want to put all my heart in my education for now. Since I got home, I have been busy with my studies and my family. I have not faced many challenges, except the fact that my country is now in the middle of a civil war, and we are being attacked by ISIS and our neighbors. This has created an economic crisis and most schools and universities are shut down temporarily due to the situation. Teachers have boycotted work because they haven’t received their salaries for four months. These situations created challenges and mental stresses. I’m supporting the teachers’ case but I stand against delaying one school year because of economic and political issues.
As an IYLEP alumni, I am now monitoring students and helping them in filling the applications for next summer. I am encouraging every student to participate in this excellent life changing experiment. Through it they will find their true selves, and they will know more about their skills and talents as well as experiencing a new life in a new country.