Before traveling to Oman on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program, Dylan Hoey had never left the United States. Yet through this YES Abroad experience, Dylan proved he could not only live in another country but thrive there.
“I think what I’ve taken from Oman is a newfound sense of confidence,” says Dylan. “I have a clearer sense of what I want to do in my life, what I want to achieve career-wise, and what truly makes me happy. I'm still Dylan, but through all the people I came in contact with, the times I spent with my host family and all the things I accomplished in this past year, I know I left Oman as a more multidimensional, dynamic person.”
Dylan had a unique experience with his host family, who are Lawati Shia. They are Omani, but at the same time, they have their own traditions and different language.
“They were extremely welcoming and the Lawati community, which numbers around 10,000, is one of the strongest, most tight-knit communities in the country,” Dylan explains. “Everyone knows each other by name, and each specific sub-family has their own traditions as well.”
One of Dylan’s most memorable experiences was when he travelled with his host family and a few American friends to Dubai for New Year’s Eve. They went to the base of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
“There were millions of people in the streets, helicopters flying above with media crews and sheikhs sitting in them,” Dylan says. “We sat there, in the middle of a million people, eating cake as the fireworks lit up the sky. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life, something I’ll tell my kids for sure!”
Despite this very different cultural experience, Dylan felt that his relationship with his friends in Oman was very similar to his interactions with his friends in the U.S.
“They were very proud of their cultural and religious traditions, but at the same time, we would sit around and play video games or watch western TV shows,” says Dylan. “I could talk to them like I would any of my friends here in the States.”
Dylan advises all future YES participants to have an open mind when participating in the program.
“Don’t come in with any expectations,” says Dylan. “I know that sounds strange, but honestly, there’s nothing that will truly prepare you for what life will be like before you leave. Don’t assume anything or expect anything in particular.”
Dylan is grateful to the U.S. State Department and AMIDEAST, the in-country hosting organization, for making this program possible.
“Without the YES program, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” says Dylan. “While I had the time of my life in Oman, I truly felt like I was making a difference. With an alumni network of 7,000- strong [the YES program for international students has over 6,800 alumni and YES Abroad program has over 200 alumni], these programs have undoubtedly inspired many more students like myself to become leaders in our local and international communities.”