Image credit to the author
This past summer I was a Youth Ambassador with Phoenix Sister Cities. As part of this program I spent a month living with a host family in Hermosillo, Mexico. During my time training to be an ambassador, as well as during my time in Mexico, I learned more about myself than I had in my past 16 years of life.
Even though the application process was incredibly daunting (a 5-page written application, finalist interviews, etc.), the day I found out that I was accepted as an ambassador showed me that if I worked hard enough at something, I would be rewarded. The next three months were full of intense training sessions that covered public speaking, international courtesies, the politics of the countries we would be visiting, and even basics of the native language. Between these activities and the fundraising projects we coordinated (such as a letter writing campaign), I felt fully prepared for my responsibilities as an ambassador by the time I got on the plane to Hermosillo.
I traveled to Mexico with three other American ambassadors, and we were greeted at the airport by our Mexican counterparts. Little did I know that these seven other teenagers would become my family. My counterpart, Sofia, and her family welcomed me into their home with open arms. Even a language barrier didn’t keep my host family from showing me incredible amounts of love and kindness.
By being thrown into strange, unusual situations almost daily during our time in Hermosillo, we learned how to think on our feet, and how to fake confidence around prominent members of society (even when you felt incredibly uncomfortable). This ability, the act of “faking it until you make it” is something that I carry with me even six months after this experience. Without it, I would not have been able to apply for any of the writing positions that I am so proud to have, switched schools when I was not happy with the education I was receiving, or even make a confident presentation in front of my peers.
Without the support system I developed through Phoenix Sister Cities, I would not have any of these skills. To this day I speak to my fellow Youth Ambassadors on a regular basis, and I would not trade their friendship or support for the world. My time with them transformed me from a timid, anxious girl into the confident, risk-taking person I am today. To every student with the opportunity, I highly recommend living abroad and having these types of experiences.