A month in the US

The 30th of June 2012 marked the beginning of an adventure. And not just any adventure, an adventure that was guaranteed to change my life.

 
Three months earlier I had submitted an essay to the Belgian US embassy entitled “Freedom of speech: a universal value” to enter a competition to win a month’s stay in the US with 56 other students, representing 41 European Countries and 10 from the USA. I learned by email that I was one of the finalists.

 
The next step was an interview at the American embassy. They asked me questions about my past and present experiences and activities, and told me that these were really important to them and to the spirit of the camp. It was then that I realized that this summer program would not be like any other. I had already taken part in international exchanges but I felt this wasn’t like them; the selection process with detailed criteria changed everything. It guaranteed at least the fact that all the youngsters had one thing in common, the will to make things change, to engage themselves and the will to be heard.

 
No need to explain the joy I felt when I actually knew that I was selected to go there with another Belgian participant, a boy called Wouter-Jan.

 

It is impossible to spend a month with so many different nationalities and not change. At first I didn’t think that the program would change me; even during the program hearing everyone else saying that they would leave the program changed, I didn’t actually think so. I just lived my experience as intensely as possible trying to ensure that I had no regrets when I got home.

But now, looking back, I can see how much I learned and have changed.

 
One of the best things I realized there was this: the more the people are different, the richer the exchange of ideas will become.  What made me realize this the most was a radio workshop- an hour long  radio show made together with people from 9 different countries. Different features, different topics, from the death penalty to funny accents : everything got on air.

 
Everyone’s different opinions, everyone’s other habits and everyone’s views on what was extraordinary or not, made me realize that our culture actually has a huge influence on our personality. Living a project where so many opinions had to be expressed has helped my skills of working in a group as well as accepting the views of the others and, most of all, has helped me not to be judgmental of other people.

 
The American dream was also represented. Not in its usual and caricatured “become rich and have a great life with all the money you made” way, but in another way. In a way that is well hidden, in a way that proves that a group of people or communities, even if they don’t come from the same backgrounds and don’t have the same culture, can make a great and awesome nation. That’s what we experienced, all of us together we proved once again what America already proved, that different people can make together something great.

 
To discover the United States, its history, its political system, and its culture, with a group of young people from almost every country in Europe, made my discovery and vision of the United States even richer. I do not ever think I will set apart my link to the United States and the friends I made from all over the world, and we are already planning reunions and follow-up projects to do together.

 
This program has changed my life and its influence will remain forever. As the camp director said, this is not the end of something. It’s only the beginning…

 
Diane Delava

 

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