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MEXICO — The World from Above

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Zia F. – Peekskill, NY There was something about seeing the city sprawl out below me that made me feel small It was a collection of homes and lives, twisting and melding into a jumble of colors that rested Seemingly peacefully below an ever blue sky It is easy to stay above the roofs, to watch the world from below It is easy to look on from a distance, to keep it all at a distance But as I stood above my little city, I found it more and more difficult not to fall Not to dive down streets and into homes  Not to fall in love And I found a warmth I never knew under a roof that was never mine Arms I had never held opened wide just for me to enter When I walked through the door the corners of your mouth tilted to the sky  But how could this be when you do not know me? And so I sat in the garden and watched the world pass by from below And you mended the weeds beside me, never asking me once to move And you brought me my meal and told me to eat more than I could  And when I asked how to repa

ALBANIA — What It Means to Be "Amerikan"

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Gisely T. – Glenwood Springs, CO Sept. 5, 2018 Dear SDC donors,    I am going to tell you about the best summer of my life. And I want to start with my wholehearted thanks because without you, this would have only been a dream. This summer I learned how to swim in the Adriatic Sea. I rode a horse for the first time, I climbed to my first cave, I found a second home. This summer I learned who I am. Albania. Honestly, I had to look up where this country was when I got the email notifying me of my acceptance to a SDC program. And looking back now, it seems like I couldn’t have gone my life without this astonishing country and all the experiences it provided. From the beginning, I had realizations that will forever change me. On day 2, we had a night coffee talk with our tour guide’s cousin. She was telling us about this mysterious and beautiful country when we were so new to it, answering our every question. This amazing country is currently opening its borders, and with it they fear t

AOTEAROA — Word of Mouth

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Justin D. – Bronx, NY “ Kia ora tatou katoa he mihi nui tenei ki a koutou te hau kainga tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa. ” As the van pulled up to the Marae , the laughter and jokes began to fade. We trickled onto the gravel, where we awaited directions. A member of the Ngati Manu tribe called out to us, a summoning. Although what was said was unknown, we knew we were being welcomed to their land. We knew the powhiri had begun. Warriors, performing the haka powhiri , began to yell. As they demonstrated their skills, they came closer and closer, eyes bulging and tongues piercing out of their mouth. The Pukuna . Portraying defiance. We shuffled towards the sacred courtyard, huddled up, anxious. When we entered the wharenui , dozens of eyes followed us as we approached our seats. Once the tribe finished giving their speeches and performing their songs, all heads pointed towards me. Trembling, I stood up. And in Te Reo Maori, I gave my speech. Born and raised in the United Stat

JAPAN — A Taiko Roar Towards Self Discovery

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Willie B. – New York, NY On our last day in Iwate prefecture, my Corps, a group of teenagers brought together for the “Drums for Peace” program in Japan, found ourselves at a sacred site of the Japanese Meiji Revolution. As a break from the volunteering we had done that week in Kamaishi, I looked at my surroundings and truly felt grateful for the opportunity to have received a scholarship. Not only to give back, but to learn with a diverse group of people that I came to see as family. But most of all, this journey through Japan brought me back to my own roots in ways that will shape me forever. After a scavenger hunt around the site, we made our way to a nearby shop for a traditional Japanese lunch, giving our formal greetings,  “Yoroshiku onegaishamis”  to the shop owner. We were excited and prepared to enjoy a meal that she was all too concerned we wouldn’t like, being a group of students from across the world engaging in Japanese culture for the first time. But I had already fallen

SPAIN — Being Basque

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Kiley C. – Sheridan, WY Tears were streaming down my face. I was mentally exhausted. Instinctively I called my host mother, “Mom” in between sobs. I desperately needed home in that moment because I had fallen in love. It was a strong sweeping feeling that literally knocked me off my feet, and sent me into tears. It wasn’t a suave Spaniard whispering sweet nothings, even or a grabby teen bumping against me in the  discoteca . It was a middle-aged couple — both with kind eyes, hearty laughs, and love that had built for me before we had even met. My Spanish host family swept me off my feet, and it wasn’t until I whispered “They’re gone” to myself, before I realized I would never be the same. When I was accepted to the Student Diplomacy Corps, I thought I knew everything I would experience: exotic food, new friends, new culture, but none of that came close to the ultimate lesson which was, “What it means to be Basque”. Let me warn you, I am a naive little white girl from small town Wyoming

SPAIN — Xiomara la Flamenca

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Gabriela C. – Corona, NY Applying for SDC, my initial interest in traveling to Spain was sparked by my limited knowledge of the beauty of its decorative cities and the liveliness of its people. This image was primarily fueled by Disney’s  Cheetah Girls  movies and the stories my globetrotting aunt told me. However, neither of these sources could accurately articulate to me the extraordinary power of expression through art that I came to understand during my travels with the Student Diplomacy Corps. Throughout our travels, I came to know a plethora of artists of all backgrounds, whether personally or in my studies of their lives and the art they poured their souls in to. In Barcelona, we studied Pablo Picasso’s art and how his style progressed over the years, reflecting the environment surrounding him, as well as the environment in his head. While I was intrigued by his art, it was flamenco’s fast-paced beats, heart-pounding stomps, and resonant vocals that tugged on my heartstrings, to

CHILE — Diga Sipo a la Vida

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Sean T. – Littleton, CO Up until very recently, I had no idea what the word  sipo  meant. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Chilean dialect, it simply means  sí  (or  yes ). This was a serious problem as, the summer between my junior and senior year I was lucky enough to study anthropology in Chile and Easter Island with the Student Diplomacy Corps. If I had foresight while picking my junior schedule, I think I would have chosen Spanish 4. Anyways, after having only taken three years of Spanish, the training wheels were off; I found myself living with a Chilean family, going to Chilean school, and not understanding the word  yes . The first day I met my host family I sat awkwardly in the car and asked the occasional question in broken-Spanish. They would answer, and naturally say “sipo.” I racked my brain for two days. Was there a verb “sipar…” I didn’t believe so. To make matters worse, I had no Internet to verify. Those two days were marked with more of the same; I would