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Reception at University of Peshawar: US consulate, iEARN welcome 'YES students'

PESHAWAR, July 13: The US Consulate and the International Education Resource Network (iEARN) arranged a reception at the Peshawar University's Lincoln Corner on Thursday to welcome six Pakistani students, who recently returned from the US after completing a year of study under the Youth Exchange and Study (YES).

US Consulate Public Affairs Officer Michael Abel appreciated the 'Yes students' for sharing knowledge on Pakistani culture with a new generation of Americans during their stay in the United States. "We are proud of Pakistani students, who travelled long distances to experience American society firsthand," he added.

YES Project Director Farah S Kalam said under the student exchange programme, a student lives in a foreign country to learn about their language and culture, etc. She said when a student travelled to another country and lived there with a host family, usually unpaid volunteers, and he or she not only experiences the tradition and practices of that country but also shares the same things from his own country.

She said people-to-people contacts could dispel stereotypes, establish peace and could obtain first hand information about the culture and people of any country. She added that YES was supported by the US Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that she said was running many exchange programmes, such as FLEX for the Central Asian Students and CBYX for German students.

"Students selected under YES programme from South Asia, Middle East and Asia Pacific countries study in the US every year since 2003," she said, adding that the programme was initially launched in three cities of Pakistan, but had now been expanded to 30 cities.

She said the 2006-07 class was successful, and that of the 44 students, 75 percent got 3.5 GPA and 18 received presidential certificates of appreciation for completing over 100 hours of community service, while 15 students were selected to participate in the Youth Leadership Conference in Boulder Colrado.

Farah Kalam also said the students shared cultural traditions with Americans and met US officials including state senators, mayors and governors. Saleem Ibrahim of the iEARN said host families in the US were not paid, and were selected under set criteria from smaller and safe towns, so as to ensure that students face no difficulty in praying, fasting and following their religious festivals without any difficulty. He said that under the programme, girls were not accommodated in the families with boys aging 13 and above.

Touqeer Shah, a student of Edwards College School in Peshawar, stated that he enjoyed his stay with a Hindu host family in the US. "My hosts used to wake up at around 3:30 am to prepare Sehri for me in Ramazan and tried to avoid eating in front of me when I was fasting." He added, "I travelled to seven US states and tried to represent Pakistan while interacting with students of other countries. Usama Ahmed from the Kohat Cadet College said his hosts treated him like their own son. He said he visited nine US states and enjoyed meeting and interacting people there. Three other students, Obaid, Mohsin and Nauman, also shared their views regarding their experience during the one-year stay in US. Around 12 students from FATA and NWFP, out of total 58 from Pakistan, will travel to the US for education this year. Daily times
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