My experience with the I Have a Dream program has been incredibly astounding and I enjoyed all the activities we were made to do. My co-participants were alumni of various exchange programs run by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and being one of the youngest participants in the entire group, I learned as much from my peers as I did from my mentor and the facilitators. Faiz bhai, a participant in the workshop, is a teacher and was assigned the same mentor as I was. He shared his wisdom and experiences, he told me one needs to inculcate a lot of patience to be a teacher, and needs to believe in one’s values before one can stand before the students. His words inspired me and I decided to volunteer as a teacher for underprivileged children. My journey has been full of such inspirational stories and anecdotes from my mentor, Nitin Narang sir, and other peers.
While I enjoyed all the activities during the I Have a Dream program, Trust-fall and Sculpture and Mud were truly memorable. These activities imparted new learning while being exciting and novel. Through this workshop, I understood about teamwork in new ways; the reflective discussions after every activity were also a unique experience. Similarly, the 5 Whys exercise and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (MBTI) helped me understand myself and navigate through a lot of confusion I was facing then. During the block-making exercise we, as a group, had to complete a square without talking; my team and I were pretty excited and yet, tense because we were not allowed to speak, and had to communicate among ourselves using other means. My team won that round.
When I joined the program I was totally confused about what career path to pursue. My dream was to find what I want to do with my life, and the workshop helped me figure this out. My mentor has inspired me to be open to new ideas. By telling stories about great architects and leaders, he has inspired me and helped me discover my passion for architecture and the environment. Some of his advice has been eye-opening. I would say I want to study at either an Ivy League school or the IITs. At this point he asked me if I am being realistic about my goals. Once I was frustrated about some challenges and what he told me then changed the way I now perceive difficulties. He said it is okay to not get into top colleges and that there are so many different ways in which one can learn and excel. One has to believe in oneself and never be afraid of failure, because failure is just a stepping stone to success. He said how life without struggle is boring and it is our struggles that make life exciting and adventurous.
Today I see myself as someone who is full of hope with a vision for my future. While participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program in the U.S. in 2013-14 made me connect better with people from different countries, this program has inculcated in me the ability to introspect, reflect and communicate in a creative manner. Meeting such a diverse set of people led me to discover a lot about myself. There is a long road to implementing my dream; through architecture, I want to do something for my country and community. At the beginning of the program, I had no idea; looking back now, I feel richer after all I know from the experiences of the people around me. I feel like a flower that leaves fragrance in the hands that touch it. This would be the most accurate description of my experience.
Syed Maaz Hasan is an alumnus of in the USG-sponsored KennedyLugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program in the year 2013-2014, when he spent a year as an exchange student at a U.S. high school. He was mentored by Nitin Narang through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.