Congratulations on your selection for the 2019/2020 Youth Exchange and Study program. You will be joining a growing number of nearly 300 students who have had the opportunity to spend one academic year in the United States and experience the cultural diversity in America.
Just like Nigeria, the United States is a country with rich cultural and religious diversity, spread across the 50 states, and every individual is unique. I hope that you will take some time to connect with the people that you meet during your stay, learn about their interests, the values that they hold dear, and their dreams for the future. In return, I hope you will share your unique stories with them
The primary expectation of this program is not only that you excel at your academics, but also that you immerse yourself in the vast cultural experiences that the United States is renowned for. Whether it is participating in sporting events, going for a ride in an amusement park, or having a picnic with friends, I encourage you to be open-minded in your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and explore the world around you.
As any educational and cultural exchange, this experience will be a give and take. You will meet a lot of Americans who may have limited knowledge of Nigeria. As a cultural ambassador, you have the responsibility to educate them about Nigeria. You also have an opportunity to learn new information about the United States and I hope that upon your return you will share your new knowledge with Nigerians in your community. Cultural ambassadors are ambassadors of peace because exchanges promotes mutual understanding amongst nations.
Upon your return, you will be joining a vibrant community of YES alumni across nine states of Northern Nigeria who have been impacting their community through voluntary services like workshops on financial literacy for youth groups, free summer lessons for high school students, visits to orphanages, juvenile home and street cleaning exercises. I expect that you will join the vibrant alumni community to deepen the work and impact they make in communities across Nigeria
Finally, I wish to recognize Dr. Saidu Yakubu, alumnus of the Citizens Exchange Program, for his visionary leadership as the country director of the YES program since its inception in 2003. Your commitment to this program is evident in the growth of the program from year to year, and in the strength of the alumni community.
As you travel to the United States, I hope that you will make a commitment to open your minds to learning, appreciate people who are different from you, and have fun.