Regina Kelen Toby, the author, is from Indonesia. She’s been in Sitka for 10 months through the American Field Service YES Abroad Scholarship and caught the travel bug from her #1 idol: the British band One Direction. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The following commentary was written by an exchange student, as part of a personal essay project between Raven Radio and the Sitka chapter of AFS. Reginna is one of four students from a Muslim-majority country studying and living in Sitka this year. 

My name is Regina Kelen. I am an exchange student from Indonesia and currently living in Sitka, Alaska through the YES Program. Sitka is beautiful place and whoever hears this commentary definitely has to come and visit Sitka.

Through this commentary, I would like to tell you how five amazing men inspired me to make my dreams come true.

Listen to Reginna’s commentary, in her own words:

Downloadable audio.

They are One Direction, a British band. It started with five men. Their names are Harry, Liam, Niall, Louis, and Zayn.

My favorite members of One Direction is Harry. Yes, Harry. Do you want to know why? First, because he is handsome. Second because his voice is really beautiful.

I listen to One Direction’s music all day. I have memorized almost every song in their five albums. It sounds crazy right? I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s all true. Their song makes me fall in love with them, over and over again.

Two years ago, I heard about this exchange program to the U.S. from my senior at school. I was a freshman at that time. My one and only motivation to join this exchange program was to meet my favorite idols.

Two years ago in March, One Direction decided to break up. Sadly, Zayn Malik decided to leave the band. It completely hurt. As one of their fanatic fans, I never thought that would happen. My days felt empty and boring.

That same month, I submitted my application to join AFS’s exchange program, specifically the YES program so I could travel to the U.S.

To be totally honest, One Direction really motivated me. They make me believe in dreaming because dreams don’t hurt you.  They motivate me through their songs. Their songs are sweet, like a sugar and AFS was my magnet to meet them.

May 2015. I took the first test to get in. I didn’t prepare at all. If couldn’t make it in the test, I planned to surrender that dream. To my surprise, I made it. I passed the test!

I know in the first test, I was just lucky and God helped me that time. However, it wouldn’t happen again. In the second and third test, I was competing against a lot of great and smart students. I really prepared and taught myself all the English tenses. Believe me it’s totally hard. Frustrating.

I didn’t think I would get it again. To my surprise again, I did! I made it. I passed. I strongly believe that God blessed my dream and my will. With every day I passed, I changed my mind. Meeting One Direction became my second goal. My first goal was now to explore the world through cultural exchange programs.

December 2015. My three friends and I went the capital city of Indonesia to take the national test. On the national level, I met a lot of wonderful and great people. I was actually really proud to myself at that point. I thought, “It’s totally fine if I can’t make it in the national level.” But to my great surprise again, I made it. It’s a greatest achievement in my life.

I passed the International Test, the health test, and got paired with an American family who wanted to host me.

I want to say a big thanks to God for everything. I want to say lovely big thanks to One Direction and my senior who motivated me. Biggest thanks for my parents in Indonesia, Bina Antarbudaya Indonesia, AFS USA and especially my American family: Tim Doggett, Julie Doggett, Angelina Doggett and Rumen Doggett. Big thanks also for all of AFS Volunteers around the world especially in Sitka, Alaska, Indonesia and New York.

Here I am, in the U.S. for 10 months, with a lot of missions and dreams. Some of them have already been accomplished.

The last dream that I really want to make happen is take a picture with my motivator – One Direction – In Los Angeles and explore Alaska more and more. Probably not right now, but I will come back for them. Wait for me!

One last thing, I fall in love with every little thing in this small island called Baranof Island. It’s such a pleasure to stay with this amazing host community.

Regina’s AFS Coordinator is Krisanne Rice.  With radio instruction from KCAW reporter Emily Kwong.