My name is Elyas. I am a 16 year old exchange student from Kabul, Afghanistan, studying in the United States as a foreign exchange student for 1 year. From the time when my eyes opened to see the world, I was born into a country of war and sorrows. However, I also saw a world of love and desire in my parents� eyes with all happiness and hope for me to become an educated and successful person.
At 4 years old, I moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, as a refugee with my family and lived there for 9 years due to a civil war within my country. Living in Pakistan, I realized the importance of education, learning as much as I could from the schools and from the teachers. Being exposed to people of many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, I learned to speak five languages fluently: Dari and Pashto, which are native languages of Afghanistan; English; Urdu; and French. I developed a love for travel and an interest and respect for other cultures.
Two years ago my family and I moved back to my beloved country of Afghanistan which was in the process of the development of peace since the collapse of the Taliban government. I began studying at my local high school in Kabul as a freshman. I was very fortunate to have been selected in this Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by American Councils for International Education.
It is difficult to believe that I have been an exchange student already for 7 months. I have experienced many things during my time in the United States so far. I have been to several states such as West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. I have toured Washington, DC, and have visited New York City. While in New York I had the opportunity to see some beautiful and historical places such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, and the United Nations Building. Definitely a highlight of my experience here in the United States as a foreign exchange student was to be here to experience the presidential elections and to have the opportunity to have dinner with Secretary of State Mr. Colin Powell at the State Department in Washington on November 4, 2004, 2 days after the presidential election. The dinner with Mr. Powell was known as an Iftaar Dinner and was extended to foreign exchange students of Muslim faith living in the Washington, DC area. I was so exited and very happy for being invited to the Department of State to meet Mr. Colin Powell and various foreign diplomats.
So far I have found America a great and developed country with nice and friendly people. Since being here in the United States, I have given several presentations to school groups and local organizations about my homeland, Afghanistan, to share experiences about my culture and traditions with the people of the United States. I am living with a wonderful American host family in Maryland, and I am studying as a junior in high school. I am having great time studying here, in a different educational system with kind teachers and interesting subjects.
I am so fortunate to have this opportunity to study in the United States as a foreign exchange student, an experience which will change my life forever. I will continue to work hard on my efforts of becoming an educated and bright person, to serve my country as a responsible citizen of Afghanistan.
Some facts you might find interesting about my country:
Afghanistan is a landlocked, mountainous country in Southern Asia with cold winters and beautiful and hot summers. The Afghan people are always hospitable and nice to people from other countries. Afghanistan has a wealth of natural resources such as natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.
Afghanistan has experienced over two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended in 1989). After the end of terrorism and the Taliban regime, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan on October 9, 2004.
Buz Kashi is the national sport of Afghanistan. The objective of the sport is when one group of horsemen tries to carry a headless calf over a long course and drop it in a designated circle. A rival group of horsemen tries to capture the headless calf and also drop it in the designated circle. Buz Kashi is a rough contact sport.