On June 18, 2008, I embarked on a journey that would change my life. I arrived at the airport around nine that morning, knowing little about the change that was soon to come. I bade my parents farewell and boarded Delta flight 1680. That was the last time I saw New Mexico the way I had during the last sixteen years; it was the day I realized I was a citizen of the United States of America. At the moment I handed my United States Passport to the English Immigration Officer, I began to understand that not only am I a citizen of the United States, but also a citizen of the world.
We traipsed around London for two days, taking in the culture that formed the United States. After a jaunt to Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed, I realized that cultures are interdependent on each other and that the current form of government in the United States would not exist but for the bravery of the barons that balmy day in 1215. Then our delegation went to Hampton Court Palace, the castle of the infamous Henry VIII. Since this historic landmark has been preserved as a living museum, the characters of sixteenth century England came alive. This event further reinforced the idea that history is best learned by experiencing it. Perhaps the greatest highlight of my time in London was going to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to watch the final production of The Lord of the Rings Musical. During this time, I realized that American culture is not the only one in this small world. We owe much of our heritage to our British friends, but we are our own culture nonetheless.
My first culture shock came as we landed in Caen, France. We went through passport control and customs, but unlike entering England, the signage was in a foreign language: French. Living in a bilingual state and household, I am accustomed to hearing both English and Spanish. This being said, I was still shocked when I could not read simple traffic signs; neither could I converse with the locals without the use of my “French Phrases for Foreigners” pamphlet. This surely showed that I am a citizen of, not only the United States, but also the world.
I traveled to Western Europe as a peacetime goodwill student ambassador with People to People Student Ambassador Programs. My delegation was officially received by a former Member of the English Parliament, the sitting Mayor of Caen, Normandy, France, and a Dominican friar at the cathedral of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, Italy. During these audiences and various other occurrences, my realization of the duties of being a citizen of the human race increased. I began to see the grace and peace of democracy, the redness of communism, and the horrors of a dictatorship. With a new view of government and politics, I returned back to my Country and vowed to leave my mark upon its history.
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