Road Trip!
Exchange students from Pakistan and Uzbekistan pose in front of "Welcome to New Mexico" street sign

Caverns, aliens, and white sand for Madina (Uzbekistan) and Shaista (Pakistan)

When I learned that we were going to spend five days exploring New Mexico, I was filled with excitement! Sometimes, my exchange year seems like a dream and visiting wonderlands like Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands was one of them.

The journey began in the late morning. It took seven hours to reach our destination, and it was worth it. I was astonished by the beauty of deserts and never-ending plants. The spectacularly beautiful sunsets and unique architecture throughout the drive were just amazing.

The whole road trip was full of joy, laughter, and learning. Our local coordinator Barb told us about the history of certain important places.

The next day we drove to Carlsbad Caverns. This national park is an amazing piece of art gifted by nature with a lot of fascinating facts and history. We watched a small documentary about this place and then went 750 feet underground.

Amazingly, this cave has restrooms and an elevator at the bottom of the main cavern area. While going back, we took an elevator ascending 750 feet without stopping—through solid limestone. Going down following the zigzag path, I observed rocks hanging from the ceiling named according to their shape, structure, and location while listening to the audio about the cave.

I heard the lady say that this is where you feel the cave breathing. I closed my eyes and yes, I felt the cave was really breathing. In this wonder of the world, I came to know a lot of facts while also observing the extraordinary proportions and variety of nature. Some of the passages had captivating beauty. Part of the cave is named "Fairyland" and really took my heart. The glistering blue water reflecting the harmonious natural formations was unbelievable.

Sometimes, my exchange year seems like a dream and visiting wonderlands like Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands was one of them.

Next, we drove to Roswell for a night. A big welcome sign to Roswell with a UFO on it electrified me. It was thrilling to take pictures with alien statues. The next morning, we went to the UFO museum and spacewalk.

There was a lot to learn and experience. We listened to all the audio about the alien history of the area. Walking to the stores and following alien footprints is one of my favorite memories.

Then, we drove to White Sands. We watched a short documentary and were well informed about this place by our coordinator. The pretty sunset in the background and the breeze in my hair made me feel like I was in one of the most amazing landscapes on Earth.

I walked barefoot in the sand. I wrote the name of my country and drew the flag. We went sledding, and I never wanted to leave this beautiful place.

I’m thankful to the Martinez family for hosting me and helping me adapt to a very different culture and language and making me feel that everybody is special and unique in this world. I’m also grateful to Barb, my local coordinator, for always being there to help me understand American culture and language and making my exchange year very special by taking us to cool places.

—Shaista (YES, Pakistan), hosted by the Martinez family (TX)