YES Virtual Student Spotlight (February 2021)

PAX's Student of the Month nominee

PAX is pleased to nominate Muhammad, an exchange student from Indonesia for the U.S. Department of State YES Virtual Student Spotlight for February 2021.

From the start of the Virtual Program, Muhammad (who goes by "Didan") has participated in all virtual activities with the Elmore family in Kearneysville, West Virginia. “We connected with him from the first meeting,” says host mom Amy. They have shared about their cultures, food, elections, holiday traditions, climates, high schools, and more. They have taken him on virtual tours of their community and even experienced a virtual snow day. Didan has established a great relationship with his three host siblings Anna, Heidi, and Scott. He is very thankful to his host brother Scott, “who always satisfies his curiosity about America, responds to his many questions, and introduces him to his friends.”

Didan also enjoys communicating with his virtual pal Lily. He is very thankful to her for their friendship and conversations about school, extracurricular activities, sports, music, films, food, candy, and much more. Lily and her family even surprised him by shipping a package of American candy to Indonesia. Didan says that the topic they enjoy most is the discussion of TV series. Lily introduced him to Outer Banks, which quickly became his favorite show.

Didan has participated in all the enhancement activities organized by his Community Coordinator, PAX, and YES, and has exceeded the requirements of the program. He is always eager to attend more activities. From his coordinator, Didan has enjoyed learning about holiday traditions and cultural values. He has also experienced Election Day and learned about the Electoral College. “Didan can always be counted on to contribute to intriguing cluster conversations, such as values in his culture, and compare them to the U.S. and others,” says his coordinator.

Didan also has enjoyed learning about local government and entrepreneurship. This was the focus of Nick Moroz's (Mayor Pro-Tempore and City Commissioner of Plymouth, Michigan) engaging student presentation. Didan celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by participating in a webinar organized by PAX. He joined a guided virtual tour at the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation and learned about the life of industrialist Henry Ford, as well as about the creation of the automobile in the United States and its far-reaching effects on American culture. During the second virtual tour to the Henry Ford Museum, Didan learned about episodes in U.S history (1860-1963)—from the election of President Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. He also enjoyed attending the Presidential Inaugural Webinar organized by the Civic Education team at American Councils.

My English has improved since the start of the program, and I have made so many friends.

From the start of the Virtual Program, Didan has participated in the “peer-to-peer” program with International Baccalaureate (IB) students at Canton, Michigan's Plymouth High School. In collaboration with some other FLEX and YES students hosted by PAX, and American peers at Plymouth High, he started a “Mental Health” group and is working on a mental health virtual project. As part of this project, Didan and his peers have created an Instagram account (@_globalpositivity) where a group of teens from around the world advocate for mental health. Didan is one of the main contributors to the designs for the feeds and Insta-stories.

Didan has been a great contributor to PAX Press and PAX social media. In addition, he has participated in PAX’s contests. His submission to the culture-sharing contest in honor of International Education Week (IEW) was outstanding.

Didan continued to deliver his cultural presentations beyond IEW. On December 14, 2020, he presented to the first graders of the Pleasant Valley Elementary School. “The father of my virtual pal Lily who is the headmaster of the Pleasant Valley Elementary School asked me to share a presentation with the first graders of his school,” says Didan. “My main goal was to show the kids how living in a different country like Indonesia is different than living in Washington County, Maryland.” Didan states that it was very fun to talk to the first graders about his country’s traditions. He said, “They asked so many questions. They asked if there’s Hanukkah in Indonesia, what animals live here, and if there’s snow. This has easily been the best moment in my virtual exchange so far.”

Didan said that even though his exchange year is drastically different than he originally dreamed it would be, he is very thankful for these opportunities and the friendships he has made. “It will help me for my future, because the lessons that I get from all the webinars, projects, and discussions are going to be very useful. I am very thankful to PAX and the YES program. My English has improved since the start of the program, and I have made so many friends. I also know much more about mental health issues thanks to the peer-to-peer program. I am excited to continue learning in the coming months and look forward to the rest of the program.”

Didan is a fantastic ambassador of Indonesia, the YES program, PAX, and international student exchange. His coordinator describes him as full of enthusiasm, ambition, and curiosity. Didan's desire to learn and immerse himself in U.S. culture and relationships is both remarkable and inspiring.

One would think having a significant time difference would hinder his ability to participate in calls and learning opportunities, but he is always ready for an American encounter, even if he has to wake up at five o'clock in the morning or stay up very late at night. His craving for knowledge and optimistic attitude shines through every virtual platform and is evident to everyone that has had the pleasure of getting to know this young man. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we nominate Didan for the U.S. Department of State YES Virtual Student Spotlight for February 2021.

—The PAX Sponsored Programs team