Sekou, on right, with friends at YYAS-2016 in Ghana
Yale Young African Scholars Program (YYAS) has been the most indelible experience of my life. It was my first time to have left Liberia to visit another country for an educational program. I admired so much my interaction with young, talented and like-minded high school students from the length and breadth of Africa. Everyone came from different backgrounds with different experiences and lifestyles, which contributed to the overall diverse nature of my YYAS experience.
YYAS was in one way a major eye opener for me on global matters, and on the other hand, a robust introduction to U.S. university preparations. There were several admissions representatives from some of the most prestigious universities giving insights on U.S. admissions procedures. As though that was not enough, the fun associated with all the YYAS activities made it a truly enjoyable and stress-free experience. I always feel nostalgic whenever I remember playing the slippers games and running around with people from over 25 African nations, as though they were all my family, like brothers and sisters. The cultural night on the last evening of YYAS-- where we watched the many beautiful talents and cultures of every single country represented-- made me want to refuse returning to my country so soon!
My YYAS experience was the only time I realized that hearing different opinions from different perspectives can all be right in given circumstances. The discussion sections were an awesome time to exercise my intellectual muscles. Everyone offered different views about issues, each one providing a specific suggestion to addressing a particular challenge. When all combined together, this method can be a powerful solution to solve any problem on earth.
The workshop sections were a unique experience where I drafted for the first time my statement of purpose and shared it with my colleagues from South Africa, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Tanzania. I also learned a lot about the U.S. Common Application, letters of recommendation, interviews and other university application procedures. Though I left YYAS more than five months ago, I feel like I’m still at YYAS every single day because of the network of amazing, everlasting friends I made during the program, whom I now interact with on the Alumni Network Facebook group and on various social media platforms.
Finally, the YYAS mentorship program connected me to inspirational figures who are guiding me on a daily basis and will continue to serve as my mentors throughout my life. In total, I would describe YYAS as a one-week transformative journey-- a journey that marked my transition from intellectual childhood to an adult understanding of global mindsets, an appreciation of diversity and to a powerful network for my educational advancement.
Sekou Jabateh, Liberia