Northern Nevada International Center
2013 Algeria Youth Leadership Program for Northern Nevada High School Students
The Algeria Youth Leadership Program is an NNIC program that was started in 2009. Funded by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Citizen Exchange Division, its purpose is to promote cross cultural dialogue between 25 Algerian high school students (and 3 educators) and to provide a comprehensive survey of community activism, civic education, and leadership. Activities will focus on building both knowledge and practical skill levels in these areas. The students and educators will participate in workshops, community service activities, have meetings with community leaders, and partake in discussion groups that will provide for substantive interaction with each other and their American peers in the program. Eight American high school students will be selected to participate in this program, and will partake in a number of activities between May – October 2013. The most intensive component of the program will be from June 22th- July 16th, which is the period of time the Algerian students will be in the United States.
NNIC is recruiting 8 high school students for this youth exchange program. High school students will be asked to participate in the following activities:
* American Participant/Parent Initial Orientation: June 1
* Participant Pre-Program Orientation: week of June 16-22. Exact dates TBA
* Reno Community Program: June 22-July 1
* Travel to Sierra Nevada Journeys (Portola, CA) & (Lake Tahoe Overnight Camp): July 2-8
* Travel to San Francisco and Washington DC Finale: July 8-16
* American Participant Follow-up meetings and one-day service project: 5 meetings for the 2013 fall semester for one-day service project implementation. Times TBD
Financial Information: All participant overnight costs, including lodging, food and transportation for stays in Portola, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Washington DC will be paid for the by US Department of State.
In order to be considered for this program, please complete and submit the following: * Our downloadable/printable 2013 Northern Nevada High School Application please make application downloadable
* One letter of Recommendation from a teacher or another academic mentor. Please refrain from having a letter written by a family member.
* Two essays (see application for details)
* Code of Ethics
* AYLP Mentor Form
Finalists will partake in an one on one interview with the directors of the program April 17-18.
What our past participants think of the program…
For the 2012 Global Gala, we hosted an essay competition for the American participants, asking them to describe how their participation in the program impacted their lives. Essays
were rated by a panel of judges, and the winning essay was written by Carlos Kovac, participant of AYLP 2009. See below to read all of the essay submissions!
**Essays are listed below in alphabetical order by author
“Algerians and Americans can be compared to couscous and steam. The process for packaging couscous is very strict and organized. Each bag is packaged in a certain way and is represented by distinct characteristics such as a serial number unlike any other. Like every bag of couscous, the Algerian students each had a different story. I first viewed the students from Algeria as a group and referred to them as a whole. It quickly became apparent that each student was an individual with their own unique personality. For example I really enjoy spending time with Khoula who liked Pokémon, anime, and ice cream cones and was very open to trying new things. Yazid loved cars and rock candy; however, he was resistant to engaging in unfamiliar activities and it took some persuasion before he would participate. Although they were in an unfamiliar country, the Algerian students did not hesitate to be themselves. No other event in my life has brought me more comfort and security in being myself than interacting with the students from Algeria.
Bags of couscous are delivered in similar ways yet the trucks take different roads and leave different trails. Although the Algerian participants were from the same general region and practice the Muslim faith, they did not all share the same values. Just like American teens, some were more dedicated to their customs and adhered to the strict practice of their religion while others did not. I realized that their family and upbringing greatly influence their choices.
Couscous cannot be judged based on where it is harvested; only what it can be made into by the ingredients that are added throughout the process. Meeting and spending time with the Algerian students taught me that regardless of where people come from, I cannot view people as a whole; that I cannot judge based on generalizations and that I must learn about the individual characteristics, beliefs, and experiences that shape each person.
My view of the world is different after participating in this program. Working with the Algerian students I learned that we are much more alike than different, and that when we view a person as a unique individual, we are more caring towards them. Just as Couscous requires steam to be prepared, we are more dependent on each other than we really think. I believe that if America continues to support other countries, it is imperative that as Americans we put aside our misconceptions and view people from other countries as individuals worthy of dignity and respect.”
–Katherine Bandy, AYLP 2011
“The Power of Education
In 2009, I had the opportunity to spend the summer with 25 Algerian youth and nine other Americans in a youth leadership training camp. I learned a lot about myself and more importantly, I learned about other people in cultures opposite of mine. Spending one month with the Algerian youth was simply not enough time. I made some very good friends who I can proudly say; I will visit one day in their homes.
The most important lesson I took away from the program was the importance of a good education. Every Algerian participant was fluent in at least three languages. I admire the fact that the Algerian students, many of whom were younger than me, spoke multiple languages. In today’s world, being bilingual is critical. Speaking multiple languages is beneficial for numerous reasons, better job opportunities, communicating with people, and it exemplifies the importance of diversity and accepting other cultures. I have always been exposed to foreign languages and people who speak many languages. However, it was very motivating to see teenagers speaking more than three languages. The Algerian youth also put so much value on education, which is something I do not always see in the United States. It was different for me to be around people who were so invested in their education. It made me realize the power of an education and how in some places of the world, an education determines a person’s future.
Most importantly, I made many friends with a group of people who I would have normally not been friends with. The Algerian students taught me that you absolutely cannot judge someone based on their appearance. In the United States, we are not taught the reasons why women wear a Hijab or any other religious doctrines related to Muslims. It is because many of us do not understand their practices that we tend to shy away from Muslims. Before the AYLP program, I only had a brief understand for the religion and Muslim countries in general. Spending everyday with the Algerian youth, I learned more than I ever thought I would about Muslims. Furthermore, I have a very deep respect for the Islamic faith because of how much I learned about the culture from the Algerian Youth.
The opportunity I had in the 2009 AYLP program was incredible because they showed me the value of new experiences and education. I learned so much about myself and the type of people I enjoy being around. The program had a major influence on my education goals and how important education is. Once the program was over, I realized how much I loved being around the Algerian youth. In fact, they had such a big influence on me that I am now pursuing a degree in French and plan to study abroad in France, which happens to be one of the many languages the Algerians spoke fluently. “
–Nadeen Black, AYLP 2009
“How AYLP has changed my view of the world
Being a participant in the 2010 Algerian Youth Leadership Program was not only an incredible experience, but an absolutely necessary part of my becoming an adult in our society. Before I had the privilege to meet twenty five of the most amazing Algerian high school students, I had a very closed minded perspective of the Middle East and it’s people. Like most Americans, I believed the Middle East to be a place where there was a focus on being anti American, where terrorists ran the streets, and where I would absolutely not be accepted because of our conflicting religious views. After spending four amazing weeks in Washington D.C., Reno, and San Francisco, I found all of these preconceived notions to be completely invalid. Through participating in the 2010 AYLP program, I can confidently say that the next generation of Middle Eastern people will be the key to lasting peace in our global society. Over the course of those four weeks, I formed friendships that I know I will keep for the rest of my life. Our experiences together were extraordinary from just hanging out in parks, to ropes courses and countless slices of pizza. I never in my life thought I would say that the best Fourth of July I’ve ever had was sitting on the National Mall in D.C. watching the fireworks with my new Algerian friends.
Through this program, every barrier I had in my mind about the Middle East was slowly broken. On this program we are divided into groups and assigned a local non profit organization to partner with. As a team, we put together community service projects and we were able to bring them to fruition in our community through the use of social media. The skills gained by the Algerians would be brought home for them to develop their own community service projects and organizations in their communities. It brings me such happiness when I see a post on Facebook from my friend Tarek in Setif, Algeria that his campaign to get people to quit smoking is successful. Or when I hear that CGTC, the Central Group Together for Children is gaining members and that my friends in Algiers, Tipaza, and Blida have visited a children’s hospital in Algeria to play games with kids and brighten their day. These students are outspoken, intellectual and incredible individuals whom I feel honored to have met and call my friends. The Algerian Youth Leadership Program is one of many cultural exchanges hosted by the U.S. Department of State, and it is these kinds of programs that are changing the previously negative views of the Middle East held by the youth in America. My view of the world has been broadened, and I now feel like a truly global citizen. I owe it all to the American and Algerian participants of the 2010 Algerian Youth Leadership Program.”
–Madeline Burak, AYLP 2009
“I can honestly say that I suffered from the stereotypical American isolation syndrome until I participated in the AYLP. One of the biggest problems this was caused by was the post-9/11 viewpoint of Muslims. I had been brought up by all those around me, to believe that all Muslims are out to destroy America. Thanks to AYLP I now have experience showing that Muslims are just like any other human being. I remember on one occasion we were participating in an activity called “Voting with your feet.” Our Algerian counterparts had been given the opportunity to ask us whether or not we thought Algeria housed extremist Muslims. I was the only person standing in the middle, while the rest of my American friends were in the strong no section. Kenza then asked me why I was standing in the middle. I answered that I had no proof whether or not anyone in Algeria did those types of things or not. I could see the pain in their faces when I said this. Over the course of July, they proved to me that Algeria and most Muslims are peace loving people.
The Algerian people are a loving people. They will forever be my friends because there is a loyalty that is unmatched. AYLP put our bonds to the test. From our first introduction, to the ropes course, and all the way up to our farewell, our lives were being touched in a way like no other experience before. With the help of social media, I have been able to keep in contact with my friends, who forever made an impression on my heart.
Another great thing I found in myself during the AYLP is a love for my country. Since we were spending the fourth of July in Virginia City, we were able to take our new Algerian friends and show them how we celebrate our Independence, and being American. From the motorcycles with giant American flags, the clowns driving small cars, the fire department with its trucks, all the way down to the community service organizations that help make America great, I remembered why I love being an American. We also were able to celebrate Algerian Independence day which is on July fifth. It did not seem all that different from any other day because each day it seemed as if it was Independence Day for them. It made me realize the lack of patriotism we have in our country, and that we should celebrate each and every day our American identity.
I guess in reality, AYLP has changed my outlook on the world completely. It even changed my outlook on life drastically. AYLP made me realize that life is worth living when you have a better understanding of the world around you, and when you love all that is around you. “
–Billy Craig, AYLP 2011
“As a high school sophomore attending a small high school in Reno, NV, I always envied the foreign exchange and cultural opportunities of larger cities. Reno was the most boring place in the world, and there were never any programs or opportunities for me that were both affordable and, even in the slightest, attainable. Hearing about the Algerian Youth Leadership Program was surprising. Of course, I signed up for it, figuring I wouldn’t even be considered as a semi-finalist, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was wanted for an interview.
My AYLP experience began the moment I met the program coordinators. Talking to them about myself and hearing their thoughts on the definition of leadership astonished me. That a group of three people could have so many combined experiences and somehow end up in the same room working towards giving high school students the opportunity of a lifetime bewildered me. That was the moment that I realized what I had applied for was real. There were students coming from Algeria to meet me. They were flying from halfway across the world, and I would have the honor to spend an entire month with them. Just the amount of energy that the three program coordinators had to exert to make this happen amazed me and the fact that they cared so deeply about a group of teenagers to this extent made me realize that people do care. It opened my eyes to a part of the world that I had not seen before. I had been searching for some place to extend myself into the world and I thought that Reno was incapable of giving me that chance, and yet here was this group of people, showing me that not only was it possible, but I could actually be a part of this myself. I could have a reach, an influence, a purpose outside of this country.
And this was only through the interviewing process. By the end of the program’s month, I had created a new family. Half of the time, I gave no thought to the fact that the majority of the people in this program were from half-way across the world. We all shared a drive to learn about the vast community service network that frankly, I didn’t even know existed. And we all shared that drive; the councilors, the participants, and the community organization heads. It was incredible. I had no idea that so many people from so many different locations had so much compassion for the human race. This enormous frontier of kindness and care existed, and I was a part of it. I was so… impressed, astounded, blown away by the incredible effort put forth by not only people from Reno, but from across the country and around the world, to help the environment and the health of our community for the betterment of our society.
Unfortunately, the guidelines for this essay will not allow me to exceed 500 words, and I haven’t even expressed half of my feelings about this program. What I can say is this: I have been so deeply touched by my experiences in AYLP that I will never be able to forget the extreme kindness and grace that the world is not only capable of, but emanates every day. “
–Jojo DiMichele, AYLP 2011
“Over the summer, I participated in a program that changed my life and my perspective of the world – the Algerian Youth Leadership Program. Twenty-five Algerian students came to the United States and
spent a month with myself and nine other American students. We took leadership classes, did community service, and had the time of our lives. When I first found out about the program, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity, and I immediately wanted to apply. Then later, when I found out that I had been accepted, I was overjoyed. I was eager to meet the students and experience what life was like in a different culture. However, as the program grew closer, I began receiving mixed reactions. People would ask what my plans were for the summer, and while there were good reactions, many people didn’t understand, asking questions such as “Aren’t you scared? Nervous?” or “Why would you do that?” To stave off this fear, I began to research Algeria. I researched the country, Islam, the people’s general way of life – anything I could think of really. I was still really excited, but I began feeling nervous and uneasy. I had never really interacted with people from other countries like this before and our cultures and lives seemed so different that it was intimidating. I was afraid that we wouldn’t relate to each other, or that we wouldn’t be able to overcome our differences. I was wrong. Once they arrived, we bonded and began to learn about each other. We were put into situations that forced us to trust each other and our abilities. One of those situations was when, on the second day of the program, we went to a ropes course. They hoisted us 20 feet into the air, gave the others the ropes, and said “Trust them, they won’t let you fall.” And they didn’t. We trusted each other, and we survived. We went through many experiences just as challenging as the ropes course, but in different ways. These difficult and challenging experiences helped us to forge a bond of trust and friendship. Through this, I realized that people are just people, no matter where they’re from. They can have different belief systems, values and traditions, among many other things, but in the end, they’re human like everyone else. Everyone is connected through the universal experience of just simply being human. With this new perspective on humanity and the world, it becomes easy to embrace the differences, learn from them, and ultimately become a better person because of them.
Before this program, the world was vast and scary. The world outside of what I knew seemed untouchable. But, through this program, while the world is still vast and somewhat scary, my perspective changed and I realized that the world is all connected and if you simply go out with the desire to learn and embrace the differences, all of its possibilities will be open to you.”
–Breanna Denney, AYLP 2011
“Through the Algerian Youth Leadership Program my entire perspective on the world has been changed for the better. Although the program was committed to helping form bonds between Algeria and the United States, it substantially excelled its goal and added the benefit of improving my perspective on diversity, working together, and changing the world.
The AYLP was the first to teach me the importance of diversity and understanding other cultures. Through fun games and exercises to personal conversations with Algerians, each moment of the program was spent towards understanding a different culture, government, and people. We learned that diversity was only the result of being born and having different experiences. And we came to understand that this diversity was a great thing because everyone has their own value and talent to add to the whole. The AYLP served as a source where everyone was given the full opportunity to achieve.
Furthermore, the AYLP has undoubtedly made an amazing impact on my focus to work together in life. From having to rely on others for help on projects and coming up with new ideas, to relying on them physically to get through an obstacle course: the AYLP has helped me understand that you need others to help you get over that high wall, both figuratively and literally. Before the program I believed in working by myself, but by the end of the program I came to understand that success is the ability to work together.
Lastly and probably the most important thing that the Algerian Youth Leadership Program taught me was that with perseverance and working together I could help change the world. The program helped us look at problems in our communities and ask us how we could change them to create a “world that works for all”. We concentrated on key areas: substance use, hunger, and improving the youth’s health and wellness. We were able to work right alongside non-profit organizations to help fulfill their goals by creating a social networking campaign for them. This collaboration of our strengths towards a common purpose made me believe that it truly was possible to change the world.
From the beginning of the program to the end, I was able to witness an extreme change in my perspective as well as everyone else who participated in it. It started with breaking down stereotypes and ended with the creation of lifelong friends. By working together and valuing diversity, the Algerian Youth Leadership Program truly has done a wonderful job at teaching me and many others that it is possible for us to create a “world that works for all.’”
–Andrew Goligoski-Wagner, AYLP 2010
“In the Eyes of Another
“Hijacker! Terrorist! Bomber!” The controversies that arose after 911 geared a vast majority of my views to look upon Muslims as “the enemy.” The actions of a small portion of Muslims led to the perception that all Muslims were of malicious, destructive mentalities. It is discernable that there was a huge tension created anytime someone mentioned the words Muslim, hijacker, 911, or Islam. Muslims were not only deemed to be inferior individuals, but were also shunned within American society.
The Algerian Youth Leadership program aimed to change the perspectives of young Americans that may have fallen as victims to societal views after 911. It aimed to unite the divisive lines that have been drawn since the occurrence of that horrendous event, while simultaneously breaking stereotypes that influence our perspectives of others. By connecting American and Algerian teenagers with one another, this program aimed toward turning individual’s naïve outlooks, into educated awareness of others.
Upon meeting the Algerian participants, I was dumbfounded. The characteristics that I had placed on Muslims were proven wrong: I had this misperception of them as being a completely different species of a human being. How could it be that they were just like me? How was it that I related to them in so many more ways than I ever thought would be possible? Through my development of friendships with people that I may have categorized in the past as “terrorists,” I was not only able to learn about others, but I was able to discover certain traits within myself, further maturing my mind. I saw the world from different eyes, walked atop the ground with different shoes. I was able to feel the pain and agony of being judged, which they experience because of something as simple as a scarf resting on their head. I then too felt the stares that they experience. In the past I had never considered how they felt, nor did I consider their point of view.
After I participated in AYLP, I no longer saw race, color, religious views, or ethnicity as relevant factors that define a person, rather I just saw people. I saw human beings that are of equal importance. I developed a skill I had never discovered before; the inquiry of society and its views. Through my experience, I was able to see that by making generalizations of people, I was missing out on discovering the beauty that lies behind the differences and imperfections that people may possess. I came to the realization that If we keep going down this road we are going to miss out not only on potential
friendships, but also on the diversification of our minds, which is truly an important part of becoming a better human being. The Algerian Youth Leadership program taught me that as young leaders, the responsibility is upon us to stop this indirect belittlement and inequality that goes on everyday not only toward Muslims, but toward all people.”
–Carlos Kovac, AYLP 2009 – Essay Contest Winner
“Waiting for the interview was the one of the most stressful hours of my life. The other candidates sitting across from me at the waiting table seemed nice enough, but I also felt a little intimidated. Little did I know that the NNIC staff that brought me into the interview moments later would become my biggest idols. I especially didn’t know how they would reinvent my thinking, and how this cultural exchange program would change my whole life.
I met the Algerians, face to face. I could neither pronounce nor remember any of their names the first day. Never in my life had I seen the image of myself in the eyes of any other person so different from me. I realized over the next month how similar we are. I learned that all people are the same, no matter the language, background, or especially religion. All people on our enormous planet have similar experiences. Everyone feels love, pain, happiness, and death. I always knew in my heart that people were very similar across the globe, but my experience confirmed this upfront. Given the chance to live and work first-hand with these very intelligent new people has brought to my attention how big the world is, but how humanity is truly universal.
Learning is what I did for the month of July. I didn’t “learn” like one does in a classroom with a heavy brown textbook and scientific calculator—I figured out life’s meaning. Well, maybe not, but I got a start on my own interpretation. By working with local nonprofit organizations and seeing myself and my friends change the community, even just a little bit, I learned what it is like to be a member of the world, and to be actively involved in the bettering of society and one’s self independently.
The AYLP showed me that anything is possible. I can go anywhere in this world and be whoever I want to be. My friends showed me the bright horizon beyond my Reno, Nevada bubble. The world is getting smaller and more mixed during this era due to the advantages, like advanced technology and social media we are all given. I am making the world smaller by keeping in touch with my Algerian friends. Society can only move forward and improve, and I am capable of making it happen for the better. The planet and all of its unexplored intricacies are just waiting for people like me.
When I started school again in August I was a different person. I had grown up. I noticed small things like the smiles, the faces of strangers in the hall. I am a more enlightened person because of the program; the world seems so accessible. There is so much that I don’t know. But, thanks to my friends, I have the aching need to attempt what seems impossible; to experience the whole world that is so much smaller to me.”
–Addie Luippold, AYLP 2011
The Algerian Youth Leadership Program truly changed my life and how I view it. It changed the way I view myself, and the way I view others both near and far. I feel as though I have gained a much greater understanding of the Islamic and Algerian culture through making personal connections with all the Algerian participates. I could not have asked for a more rewarding experience.
When I was recommended to this program, I was fascinated by the opportunity to gain more global awareness. However, I first noticed that I did not even know where Algerian was, what language they spoke, or what kind of things defined their culture. This ignorance is what motivated me to apply to become an American participant. I knew I needed to gain more global awareness.
Once I had made connections with the Algerians, I learned that the primary religion of Algeria was Islam. I was determined to understand their views since the American perspective on Muslims is very negative. I wanted to educate the general public on the principles of Islam in order to create a better understanding, so assumptions of terrorism were separated from those who praise Allah. I am so thankful that I was able to have this opportunity, so that I am no longer in the darkness regarding the Arab culture.
It is something natural for humans to categorize things. For example, nearly every application for job or school asks about race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. This is so a person can be labeled and identified with these categories, but this program has taught me that this is the absolute wrong approach. What I learned from these international students is that no person can be labeled with such general things. Each person is unique in every singe way. Also, not a single one of these students fell into the generalization that Muslims are bad terrorist like people, as the average American might define them. They were genuine, thoughtful, intelligent, kind, friendly, talkative, and funny. In fact even though the had grown up worlds apart from me, I felt that deep down inside our souls were the same. That we were truly connected through our pure human spirt.
The connection that I made with each of the twenty five Algerians I know will last forever, and I will forever educate those who generalize people by such trivial things as race, religion, gender, etc. This program has helped me believe in the sense of global unity. The belief that each person on Earth has their own true beautiful soul is something that will stay with me forever.
–Zoie Oberg, AYLP 2010
“One month. When you think of one month in the span of a life-time one month is insignificant. But one moth is all it took to change not just my life, but my world view and most importantly my future. I know that I am a better person after participating in the Algerian Youth Leadership Program. When applying for this program it is not mentioned what kind of effect it has on you, but now that there has been a significant amount of time since my experience in the AYLP I understand why there was no indication of what was to come when applying for this life altering experience. The answer is that there are no words to explain what happened in that one month period of time. How can you possibly describe something that you don’t completely understand? Even now when I find myself reminiscing on the memories from that summer I am shocked by how much that experience changed me. It was the people, I didn’t really know what to expect when meeting a group of Algerian teenagers from half way across the planet. It is still hard to believe how, just how is it possible to get so many amazing people together in the same place. Getting to experience a bunch of things that were new to both groups of teenagers brought us closer together, but I am convinced that even if we had not gone to all the different places we went to
my experience would have been just as incredible. I truly feel like every person who I met that summer was there for a reason, I learned something valuable from every single one. Now that my senior year is coming to a close I think about my experience in the AYLP more than ever, I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the future but I do know that I want to explore the world. I am not talking about jut merely traveling around the world but experiencing different places and really living. Before AYLP I would have been okay with staying in the same place for the rest of my life, but now I cannot bear the thought of staying in once place. It would feel like I was depriving myself of the wonders that exist beyond the comfort of home. I have the AYLP to thank for that.
The friendships I made that summer will be with me forever, in one month I got closer to the participants of the AYLP than I was to people that I have known my entire life. I look forward to the day that I will go to Algeria and visit all of the friends that I made.”
–Diana Segura, AYLP 2011
“Stereotyping has been around as long as mankind has been able to differentiate itself from the rest of the animal kingdom. Initially it was a safety mechanism used to distinguish friends from enemies, but with a globalized society, can we continue to abide by these prehistoric notions? Stereotyping and its spawn prejudice worm their way into our hearts and minds, creating ignorance, close-mindedness, and ultimately violence. In order to evolve beyond these atrocities, we need to see that those that we place into unfair stereotypes such as “Islam is a terrorist regime” or “Americans are self-centered chubby yanks” are unjustifiable and ignorant. After all, we are all just human beings.
I was one of those people who bought into the propaganda spread by the media. Prior to the Algerian Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) I had never met a Muslim and I probably would have told you that Algeria was in South America. The first day I found out that I was to be in the program I googled Algeria on my smart phone and relying on the ever reliable Wikipedia, came to the conclusion that these Algerians would be uber conservative and that I shouldn’t pack any tank tops or shorts for my all expenses paid trip across the country. This proved to be a terrible idea since it was extremely humid and 80+ degrees every day. Stereotyping had already entered into my psyche even before I had given them a chance.
I had never been completely on my own before and I was terrified. I am quiet and shy, which wasn’t the best combination for meeting new people. I tried striking up conversations on the first day, but that proved to be disastrous. Most of the time I just sat there brooding, it wasn’t until one of the Algerian girls asked me why I never said anything that it hit me that I needed to try harder. From that moment on I threw myself into conversations and quickly made friends.
Once I made the decision to step out of my shell, something amazing happened. I made friends! One of my counselors was from Japan and we bonded quickly over our shared love of sushi and karaoke. We danced on the subway cars, I showed them my prom pictures and we stayed up late talking. By the time we made it back to Reno, it seemed like I had known them my entire life. Some of the girls did a sleep over at my house where we watched chick flicks and ate cheese pizza (one of their favorite American foods.) We listened to the same music, watched the same movies, and even used the same face wash! We were all just teenagers, more alike than I ever could have imagined; worrying about being liked, getting good grades, what our futures held.
AYLP opened my eyes to the similarities that I could share with people from a completely different world and introduced me to some lifelong friends. AYLP removed the stereotypes that I had held onto and how I viewed the world. To say that it changed my life is a grave understatement and I am thankful every day for the changes it brought.”
–Taylor Skipwith, AYLP 2010
“It Is One World
I have always imagined myself staying in Reno, going to UNR and living my life in “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Truth is I didn’t know exactly what comprises the world. AYLP has helped me define the WORLD and find my place within it.
The other side of the world had never crossed my mind until I joined AYLP. Sure I had thought of it as a place for vacationing but nothing more. I remember getting accepted: I didn’t know what to expect. To begin with I wasn’t comfortable with people that I went to school with, for I’m conservative and like to keep to myself, which made me more nervous about sharing a summer with other teenagers from another place. “What will they be like? Will we get along? Would I be able to understand them?”
I used to think that the world was a huge place, enormous-too big for my understanding. After a month filled with bravery, laughter and tears I knew that the world wasn’t as big as I had imagined. I discovered that no matter where in the world we are one thing is certain; we are teenagers with dreams and goals. It doesn’t matter what language we speak, how we dress or which continent we live on. I shared many things that I had never shared in my life with friends that I would never trade. Through the travels of AYLP I learned that being far from the place I call home isn’t lonely. I could speak with my Algerian friends and they understood me with an open mind. Over a short period of time it wasn’t long before we had inside jokes and nicknames for each other. Being from a different place didn’t make us incompatible. How can there be hate in the world when we all share a whole lot more in common than differences? I learned the definition of ONE WORLD.
Once the summer ended I knew that I couldn’t possibly stay in a small city the rest of my life when there are places to be discovered. I had made some of the closest friends in my life in the shortest amount of time. My place in this world is in the world not just Reno. Through some classes at UNR I learned that with the available media it is possible to do the impossible. I am going to travel to places and get to know other peoples culture. Just because I’m Hispanic doesn’t mean I can’t learn about other backgrounds. I want to be a part of this world and share my culture with people and learn about theirs.
AYLP opened my eyes into a world I didn’t believe possible. I guess growing up and learning about history through books they don’t take into consideration the people within countries. We are all human and instead of just thinking we are different I want to share our similarities and differences. “
–Katia Varela, AYLP 2011