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.
A few months ago, I was in the United States within the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). It was a a dream come true kind of trip. I got to see New York City, Washington DC, and Austin, which I fell for like love at first sight. I don’t just love this city for the beautiful randomness it offered me but also for all the amazing people I met during my stay there, including the lovely staff and the other students that I consider my family. The program’s staff and the resident mentors were so helpful. They were able to guide us through many difficulties all along our stay, as we weren’t easy to handle, especially regarding the “being on time issue,” but they were always there to push us forward positively. I miss each and every one of them and am thankful for all the amazing stuff I got to learn with them, starting with waking up early, managing my time and schedule all the way till making s’mores ! I love Austin for all the positive change it built in me, for all the warm memories it gave me, and for all those days each and every moment of happiness I had.
Many aspects in me as an individual did change after the positive effect of this journey on me. Many I can’t even count. An example of at least one of those effects is that as soon as I got back home, I started working with many other IYLEPers on a project of collecting books for one of the several refugee camps we have here in the Kurdistan region. I am working as the contact point in my city, and I got more than 450 books in less than 2 weeks!
After seeing that even homeless people down Austin’s streets are carrying some books around, I felt like reading is something that I want to spread around my country. I felt obligated to get more and more people to read and nourish their minds through books. I am trying with the help of others to start a public library in that refugee camp for everyone to be able to read all kinds of different books with many languages and learn from it and then give it over for many others for many coming years. I truly believe a book is a gift that can be opened over and over again.
I want to end this with a thank you to each and every person out there who made this dream of mine possible. I will always try to use all that’s good that I learned from you forever and beyond.