Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alumna Recounts Her YYAS 2016 Experience

As I stood in the registration line, trying to look for a few familiar faces from my school, I felt nervous, yet excited. It was finally happening! I remember standing in front of a boy called Nenfort, who had trouble registering because he preferred another name on his tag. I found him quite amusing but kept quiet, too shy to introduce myself. Little did I know that he'd become the clown of my workshop group that week at YYAS.

Rumbidzo Dangarembizi (second from right) with her friends at YYAS 2016.
When my friend Fadzi and I welcomed two South African girls, Felicity and Thenjiwe, and helped them with their bags on arrival, we never thought that they would become two of our closest friends at the program. I still treasure their relationships to this today. In the evenings before bed, we'd sit in each other's rooms talking about the day and anything and everything, like we'd known each other our whole lives.

It was amazing seeing people from all over the continent and the beautiful blend of accents filling the air each day, making me feel right at home. There were so many names to learn throughout the week. I felt as though I met someone new every day! I found myself meeting new people even on the very last day.

Breakfast was one of my favorite times of the day. Our table was never shy of jokes and laughs, which always came from the Zimbabweans and the Nigerians. The Nigerians amused us with their love for jollof rice and their confusion over why we didn't have plantain in Zimbabwe. By the end of the week, we all felt like a family.

The talent show was an exciting showcase, too, especially when everyone gathered on the stage to dance. In that moment, watching everyone perform, we were all the same. We all spoke the same language as we danced to Davido's music. When people performed it was interesting to see the uniqueness and individuality they all possessed, whether they performed spoken word, sang, danced, or did stand-up comedy.

I believe that the program really opened the door for students to pursue tertiary education, especially at American universities. The Yale students who served as instructors during the program were all African, just like me. They all came across as kind, loving, and helpful. The advice they gave us in our workshop group, admissions sessions, and seminars was truly valuable. The goals that they had reached by being accepted into such a prestigious university didn't seem so distant anymore. All the information that they fed us throughout the week cleared my confusion and gave me a definite path.

I'd encourage any of you who are unsure of what you would like to do in the future, or who want to go for university, to apply to the program,. The lessons you'll learn at the program are invaluable and life-changing. Please don't pass up the opportunity. It is definitely worth going for the experience of a lifetime!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

YYAS - the most indelible expeirence of my life

 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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My YYAS Experience

Sope (on the right) with a new YYAS friend

Honestly, I never thought I would get into YYAS when I applied. I was just the fourteen year-old girl who played basketball, had good, but not great grades. I was kind of scared, not telling anyone about my application until I got accepted, not really believing the acceptance letter in front of my eyes were mine.
My YYAS experience was a mix of emotions. It was scary meeting so many people from Yale University, a place I had only heard of. It was also fun making new friends from all over Africa, seeing people from places I’d only heard of on the news, playing games with people I didn’t know even existed. It was exhilarating sharing experiences and discussing with fellow African students, and meeting kids from other schools. It was silly, seeing university students whom you’d expect to be uptight having fun like they were ten year-olds, making jokes and playing goofy games with us during family time. It was also saddening, saying goodbye to those wonderful people at the end of the week, people I’d never thought I’d be so attached to after seven days. The YYAS program was one experience that I would love to have over and over again. My experience was a bitter-sweet one because it brings a wave of nostalgia every time I remember it, as remember the awesome people I might never see again, but it’s sweet because I would never trade that experience for anything in the world.
Sope Olusegun-Lartey
YYAS 2016 

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Zimbabwe Experience

If there is one action I will never regret in my life, then I guess
that action is applying for YYAS. Not only did it change my way of
thinking, it also opened my eyes so that I saw many opportunities
around me that I  would have never seen on my own.

Firstly spending one week with Africa's most intelligent students is
one thing one can always treasure. I enjoyed the program because I got
a chance to learn new cultures as well as learn new languages. I got
to exchange views with peers of my age. This was a great thing because
I l learnt to look at things at different perspectives. I also got a
chance to showcase my piano skills with others.

I was able to meet Yale faculty who delivered mindblowing lectures
ranging from political science to information technology. These
lectures surely kept me at the edge pf the seat as I was keen to
learn.It was also was a blessing to meet university students from USA
who shared their college experience with us. This was a giant leap
ahead for me because I now know some of the things to anticipate when
I apply for college.

Before YYAS I was not good at socialising with people because I was
shy but during the course of the program, I learn so much
communication skills and made so much friends from all over Africa
that when I went back home  I was surprised with the progress I had
made in terms of socialising. I wouldn't dare to leave out the food
whenever I mention about YYAS. Words can not describe the food at YYAS. One has to experience it to know what I mean. I would certainly
recommend the YYAS to everyone for it is one awesome experience. I
would even recommend it to those who hate me,who knows they might
like me for that!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Joy Talemwa reflects on Zimbabwe 2016

My alarm went off and I jerked out of bed and run to my mum’s room. Mummy! Mummy! We need to go to the airport now, otherwise the plane will leave me! Throughout the 1 hour journey my mind was spinning and turning as worry waged in my mind about the plane living me. Finally, we reached the airport and I was right on time for check-in. Phew! I was finally settled. It was hard to say good-bye to my family and a few tears did flow down, but their eyes glowed with great pride and optimism (given their teenage daughter was flying alone for the first time). There was no backing down now!

The flight was relaxing and calming. While at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport, I met other Scholars from Kenya and immediately the fear and anxiety melted away. We started sharing and laughing about school, friends and future plans.  The journey took 6 hours and at midday, we arrived in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is such a beautiful country!  Despite its economic and political instability, the breath-taking scenery and warmth of her people outweigh the former.

Yale Young African Scholars was an intellectual, leadership building, and fun-filled 5-day experience that united talented and intelligent African young future leaders at the aesthetic Arundel School. Meeting other participants was a hilarious experience; remembering everybody’s name and nationality was studious!

As the birds hummed a morning melody and the sun’s beautiful bright rays pierced through the sky, we woke up and freshened up for the day. Breakfast was always served at 7:30 and by 8:30, we were expected to be in the lecture hall for the day’s lecture. The lectures were very interactive and enlightening presentations- by notable speakers and distinguished Yale lectures and faculty members- about various topics like Cyber Internet, Leadership and Ethics, Nostalgia for the Colonial Times, among others. Discussions then followed. These were one of my favourite parts of the program because we got to share, discuss, and even counter-argue the topics discussed in the lectures. The morning sessions were climaxed by workshops, were aspects of the common application were explained (in my workshop we always played buzz/bing before discussing!)

 A sumptuous lunch buffet awaited us at 12pm. The lunch break was one hour, during which we could have special lunch sessions with the YYAS facilitators about college life, cultural adjustments, applications, and career paths in fields like medicine and engineering. After the delicious meal, we would proceed to our seminars. All Scholars chose seminars that they wanted to participate in.  I chose Digital Footprints, Education Policy, Social Economic rights, and ‘What it means to be African?’ The debates, presentations, practical and visual methods of presenting these topics made them so interesting and easy to understand. During the program, we also had families and every-day at 2:30-3:00 pm, we met our families and played and had fun together. We got at connect at a deeper level with our family members and leaders.

A College admissions student panels, keynote speakers, a Yale mixer night, and admissions session were some other events we enjoyed throughout the week.  During admissions sessions, questions about SAT and ACT, Financial aid, majors, and college life were addressed. One the second last day,we  were separated in different project groups and tasked to develop an “Afrotopia-a new Africa.”
The last night was lit! After the group presentations (where we presented our ‘Afrotopia’ to fellow scholars) and certificate ceremony, we had a talent show. It started off with a spoken word piece and then several dance presentations followed: shoki, dubbing, nay nay, and many more dance moves were showcased in the two hour performances. Musical talent and several piano pieces and melodies were sang (the audience got to sing along too!).

Yale Young African Scholars was a life changing experience that challenged me to love my country and continent. Life-long friends from Cameroon (one participant from Cameroon was Joy Jude- we shared a name!), Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Mauritius were forged. YYAS was an unforgettable experience because it was intellectually stimulating yet so engaging and fun at the same time. Advice, Insight, contacts, and selfies were shared. The Alumni of YYAS 2016 is a family of committed teenage Africans united by a love for the motherland, and driven by a passion to transform their communities by using their gifts, talents, and resources.

YYAS is the right place for any African teenager, with a love for their continent, to connect with like-minded young Africans with great visions and dreams!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Yale Young African Scholars Programme Experience

There is nothing more rewarding and exciting than being a part of an experience that challenges you intellectually and physically and teaches you to see the world in a way you never thought possible. My time at the Yale Young African Scholars Programme was truly an incredible once in a life time opportunity.

The Yale Young African Scholars Programme (YYAS) is a highly selective week long academic and leadership programme that brings together 50 young Africans aged 14- 18 years who have the passion, talent, drive, energy and ideas to make meaningful impacts as young leaders, even before they begin their university studies. YYAS is an official program of Yale University. There is no cost to students to participate in the Yale Young African Scholars Program.

My initial experience at YYAS was quite daunting. On the first day we were all given a bag, containing a huge binder file with seminar notes, a notebook and a pen. It is then I realised that this was not a holiday, I was here to work. Furthermore I was one of the eldest participants and thought I would find the younger participants annoying, but surprisingly I realised that when you are surrounded by people/children so brilliant and so driven to make a positive impact on the continent and share similar interest with you, then age is no barrier.

YYAS somewhat mimicked life at university as we had assignments, group projects, lectures and seminars everyday.  Each day started with breakfast at 8am and sleep time at midnight. But nonetheless we were well fed and always looked forward to what the day had to offer! Throughout the week I got to participate in seminars conducted by current Yale students who were just as excited to teach us as we were excited to be taught by them. There was a wide variety of seminars we could attend, all with topics of great interest such as Photography, Africa’s role in the United Nations, Whether we should Consume Genetically Modified foods, Femininsm etc. The Yale students also shared with us how life is at Yale, especially as an African student and they offered one to one sessions on applying to universites in the US.

I also had the honour of attending lectures taught by current Yale professors and faculty members- mind you these faulty members kindly flew in from the US just to teach us for 2hours. The lectures where absolutely incredible and encouraged an interactive atmosphere. Everyone expressed their views freely.

There was also a Yale Mixer Night, were we got the honour to mingle with Yale Alumni and alumni from other US colleges. I enjoyed this night thoroughly because I got to appreciate the art of networking and the importance of establishing contacts for future purposes. The advice most of the Yale Faculty/students/visitors shared with us during that evening was the importance of not forgetting where you come from, following your heart and taking the path less taken. Though that road may be rough it will be the most fruitful. For example one of our Yale lectures told us that she dropped out of Harvard Medical School to pursue her love for Anthropology. Furthermore, nurture your strengths and do not take them for granted because fostering them can lead to genius abilities.

Thirty African countries were represented in this programme. That’s a whole lot of languages! Every day, I made it my aim to learn a phrase or two in other African languages and I came back with an immense knowledge on the different customs and cultures of this beautiful continent we reside in.

By the time this programme drew to an end I had learnt a lot about myself and gained a greater appreciation for not only my country but the richness and diversity of Africa. I also realised that we as young Africans have the power and ability to find new solutions to Africa’s problems and the world’s problems and that it is our responsibility to do so.

This programme has given me a zest for life, a go-getter attitude and a made me believe that I can truly do anything I set my mind to. Furthermore if you want to go far in life and succeed in whatever you do, you should take with you people who will guide you, push you, inspire you to do great and allow you to see greatness in yourself.

YYAS is an excellent programme and I highly encourage those eligible to apply do so by visiting their website, africanscholars.yale.edu or see me for more information. Applications are now open and entries close on 31 March 2016.

Mabedi Sennanyana L6L

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My YYAS Experience

Applying to the YYAS program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. All the different lectures and seminars really changed my perspectives on a lot of concepts and issues, and some even forced me to rethink my preset goals and aspirations. It was an intellectually meaningful experience to be able to attend lectures by renowned Yale professors and individuals who were great experts in their fields. Another thing I truly value about the YYAS experience is the community. I got to meet an amazing group of people who came from all over Africa. I became educated in the lives and cultures of each one of my peers. I made a lot of friends, some of which I'm still in contact with. I also gained a lot of insight into the college application process. You'll find there is always someone who will gladly help you with any questions you may have. It is with sincere confidence that I say the experience was formative and very valuable, and I strongly encourage everyone to apply.