I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Chile as a Youth Ambassador of the United States to experience the different culture, customs, food, and language. This was a 3 week, eye-opening adventure where I stayed with two volunteer families; one in Santiago, Chile, the other in Concepcion, Chile. I went through an application process with Partners of the Americas and was selected as one of only 40 students in the United States to represent America in a foreign country.
One of the most prominent differences I noticed when I first got there was the passion and motivation to get stuff done the students had. I learned about the government’s educational system through the eyes of people my age, and just the fact that they knew enough to inform me and have a point of view on the educational system shocked me. They told me how it is corrupt, how only the rich are able to get a decent education because public schools aren’t even given enough money to provide more than 1 teacher for every 30-40 students. There are students that actually graduate high school without having learned to divide. But do they just sit in their homes and complain? No. They joined forces to put together their own independent organization made of all the students across the nation that face this unfair treatment, and protest. They take action. In America, students complain about having to meet requirements to graduate, and being required to get a good education. Here, education is taken for granted.
Until I had this experience, I wasn’t aware of just how lucky we are to have such nice schools, and how much students in other countries are willing to do to receive the same treatment as us. I saw that other countries are fighting for their rights, are concerned with getting a proper education and improving their lives in the present and their possibilities in their future while my peers put popularity and material things above education on their list of priorities. We stress about getting name brand clothes, while they stress about getting text books that don’t refer to World War I as The Great War. We worry about the latest gossip while they worry about making their voice loud enough to be heard by a power greater than themselves. This is a reality check a lot of Americans could benefit from.
I see the hardships the people there are facing, and minor issues like whether or not their boyfriend is popular. They faced a volcano eruption, tsunami, and earthquake all within a year. There are families rendered homeless, students going to makeshift schools with tarps outside their trailer classrooms being their only protection for rain, sun, or snow while walking from class to class. My trip to Chile inspired me to expand my interest in community service, to helping other countries. I want to travel the world, spreading knowledge and awareness of the challenges teens our age face on a day to day basis in order to gain support, and make a positive difference in their lives.
Here is a picture of us with the Ambassador of the United States outside of the U.S. Embassy in Chile. I am directly to the left of the Ambassador himself.
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