While the Jóvenes en Acción participants were on program in New Mexico they were accompanied by two local student volunteers who served as Youth Ambassadors, providing the unique one-to-one connections that make cultural exchanges so life-changing. In this two-part post we hear from the Youth Ambassadors about their perspective on this experience.
“When I applied as a Youth Ambassador for the 2019 Jóvenes en Acción program, I knew I was going to be in for a rough ride. I knew that by signing myself up, I had to be physically involved in the tasks demanded, all the while having to socialize with teenagers from another country. I had known Spanish prior to the exchange, pero el español mexicano es una cosa diferente. You can’t comprehend how anxiety-inducing it was when I got the email that said my application was accepted.
But, that’s how it always is, right? You dread the future before you can even experience it; and it would be completely unfair of me to deny myself this opportunity. If I was feeling nervous, how were the kids leaving their own country and staying in another feel? The weight of their task must seem daunting; they sure must have been brave kids.
And brave kids they were. When I first met them, ironically, it was them that welcomed me in.
My fondest experience on the trip is riding in the shuttle-van of CottonWood Gulch. Yes, it seems mundane, but with Jóvenes? Nothing is mundane. Bouncing around in the car, hearing them all talk one minute, and the next all fall asleep. Hearing them sing songs that I personally love, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Come and Get Your Love”, or even singing other types of music I’m not familiar with like Reggaeton is special. They tell you their culture, and you tell them yours; and in the end, you find out that both have some hilarious similarities. And a great way to wrap up the day? Eating soft tacos and literally having all of its deliciousness spill out after a bite.
As mentioned above, what really impacted me about the experience is how, although we may speak different languages, we are all the same. Of course, there are obvious differences and ideals, but it all boils down to that we are sisters and brothers. I can say that this experience has given me confidence. Before, I was a wee lad who didn’t want to interact with these kids, but in the end, I want to see them again someday! The bond we had was truly special. We may be separated, but in the end, “¡Sí, somos americanos!”