A month’s experience worth remembering for a lifetime

written by Hsu Wai Htun, Fall 2019 Fellow from Myanmar

The first time I heard about YSEALI was several years ago through social media. Then I kept getting familiar with the program as I’ve come across my Facebook newsfeed which was to an extent, filled with the posts of my friends who joined the different YSEALI programs. Even without knowing the details of the program, I thought it is pretty cool to work and learn in the US for a few weeks. Then I started exploring the program, I made up my mind if there comes the right time, I will go for the program.

Now, chances have been taken. With the help and support of families, friends and colleagues, I am here in the US, even already at the end of the YSEALI PFP. This almost 6-weeks program was not a life-changing experience, but it was a life experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.

YSEALI PFP opened a lot of doors for me for my personal and professional development. It was not an easy thing to immerse in a whole new culture for weeks, but it has allowed us to progress to a next level of adaptability and flexibility.

My placement is at US-ASEAN Business Council, which does things very similar to what I have been doing back home and it also runs programs which are aligned with my personal interest. So, the 4-weeks-time at the Council was an opportunity for me to learn and contribute.

Living with a host family was also a whole new experience for me. I am and will ever be grateful to the host family for being very kind, nice and hospitable during our stay. I’ve never thought complete strangers can be this good to complete strangers. It was an eye-opener for me. The random conversations that I had with my host parents from little things about food to politics will stay forever in my memory.

Coming from a country with winter temperature of 25 degree Celsius or even higher, I have to say the weather was brutal and was even regretting to have joined the fall program. But thanks to a friend and host mom who lent winter clothes to keep me warm. J So, here is a word of advice to future fellows – bring enough warm clothes. It can be freezing here. J

Halloween was a lot more fun than I imagined. I never thought I would be curving pumpkins, but I nailed it. Volunteering at the neighborhood Halloween parade and party made my Halloween experience even more complete and fascinating. I truly felt I was experiencing the American culture.

What is the most pleasing to me is that I made it to 5 States within a short time. I worked in DC, lived in Virginia and visited around Maryland, Connecticut and the New York. I think I made the most out of it.

I’ve experienced a lot of the-very-first-in-life things in this trip – the very first time to the US, first experience under minus temperature, first time working as a professional fellow, first host family experience and a lot of other very fascinating first experiences.

What I like most about the program is that the program does not end as we fly back to our countries. There are always chances for us to work together with American counterparts with the support of the program. Being able to be part of the YSEALI alumni is already a fruitful opportunity, I would say.

Thanks to everyone who made it. I believe all the fellows including me, are and will forever be thankful for the efforts you have put in to contribute to the development of ASEAN through this incredible program. Thank you for making us feel we matter.

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