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Where Will International Education Take You?

This is International Education Week, an annual celebration and a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative asks "where will international education take you" or your students. We asked a student to share his perspective.

Brazil and Beyond: My Trip as a Student Ambassador

By Roberto Colon

Buenos dias! I am a student at the International Studies Academy (ISA) at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland, Ohio. I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Ohio. Until just recently, I have not traveled internationally. Last spring, I was nominated and competed to become one of 13 summer 2012 Youth Ambassadors to Brazil. This prestigious program was sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, and administered by World Learning.

The highly competitive selection process included designing a project that will help me and other participants stay in touch and integrate this learning experience into our day-to-day lives upon returning to Cleveland, Ohio. My project had as its goal, to empower me to train other student leaders in community-oriented service projects. As a high school senior I will be working with local organizations to develop service projects for youth in my community.

My journey to Brazil began in August when I traveled to Washington, DC for a two-day orientation workshop with U.S. Embassy staff and State Department officials. I had never been to our nation's capital before, and I was awestruck by the monuments and the history of this beautiful city. I then flew to Brasilia for orientation on Brazil's history, culture, and social issues. From there, I met my host family and began an 18-day cultural experience in Curitiba, Brazil, followed by a short stay in Rio de Janeiro, where I completed my project design for implementation back in Cleveland.

I can honestly say that my trip was a life-changing experience. It developed leadership abilities in me that I didn't know I possessed. But mostly, this trip taught me that other cultures in this world are what keep us human. So often people stereotype other people from what is heard and seen through the media. If it wasn't for the teachers and the opportunities made known to me through school, I would never have had the opportunity to travel outside of Cleveland, Ohio.

The world is a big place, and I have had only a small appetizer of what its like. I am ready for the next serving. Bring on the main course!

I have invited Roberto to write more about his project and its impact in Cleveland. In the meantime, give your students this life-changing experience. Here is a sampling of international travel opportunities from The U.S. State Department and others.

  • The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad Program offers scholarships to American high school students to spend the 2013-14 academic year in countries that may include Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali (semester), Morocco, Oman, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. Application deadline is January 10, 2013. 

  • The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX): Secondary school students live with host families, attend local schools, and participate in community life in Germany. Scholarships are now available for academic year 2013-14; application deadlines vary by U.S. region and range from September 2012 to January 2013.
  • The American Youth Leadership Program offers opportunities for American high school students and educators to travel abroad on an exchange program to gain first-hand knowledge of foreign cultures and to collaborate on solving global issues. Recruitment areas and application deadlines vary, so please check the website for more information. 

  • The National Security Language Initiative for Youth(NSLI-Y), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. The applications for the 2013-14 school year has passed, but bookmark their website for the next round of funding.
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