During my third year of High School in Brazil I was chosen by the local Rotary Club’s President to apply for the exceptional opportunity of becoming a Rotary Exchange Student in a foreign country. In August of 2009, I left Brazil to attend Apple Valley High School, MN, where I completed my senior year. I was also elected ‘Creative Mind’ through Apple Valley Theater Club for the school year of 2009-2010. Along with the EaglEye crew, a video news magazine completely produced by the students, I was the recipient of 2010 Upper Midwest Emmy, for the EaglEye #48 show, one that I anchored.
Leaving my comfort zone really paid back. During my exchange year I encountered many people who have helped me get where I am today, including my three amazing American host families that have made my life a lot more joyful and easy. Without their help I would have never been able to come here for my studies. Having a family with whom I can share my culture as I learn more about theirs just made my experience unique.
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a civil rights and antiwar campaigner once said: “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” This country, more than any other, is blessed with cultural diversity. Our background is something we should be proud of. As a Brazilian Rotary Exchange Student, I am here not only to represent my country but to learn a new way of living, a new language, and a great deal about myself. As I learn, I also teach others about my country, my culture, and my ideas. I am a youth ambassador, helping to bring the world closer together and developing great friendships in the process.
At the end of my exchange year I left with a lot of the knowledge I planned on gaining: I improved more than just my academics, I developed my leadership skills, teamwork, responsibility and work ethic. Based on the wonderful experience I had, and on the skills I gained, I decided to come back and pursue my bachelor’s degree in Minnesota. The experiences that I have had since I first got on a plane in August of 2009 have shaped who I am today.