by: Natalia Ramos Nufio (participant from Guatemala)

My experience in the Philippines opened my eyes to the world. Thanks to AFS. You were the ones who taught me about respect, tolerance, and coexistence.

It was 2016 and I had received an email saying that I was selected for a scholarship to go on a cultural exchange program in the Philippines. This scholarship was granted to me by the American Field Service (AFS) office in Guatemala. The trust that they gave me helped me build my trust for myself and helped me grow as an individual; as a person.

At that time, my mindset was to say yes to everything. This kind of mentality helped me a lot. Whenever I get a culture shock, I just try my best to see it from a positive perspective. I learned how to respect others culture, to find the middle point in which everyone can agree and live in peace.

Even when I was 3 flights away from my home country and even when I was having homesickness I learned how to be brave. This experience helped me to gain some degree of independence. Furthermore, this exchange year taught me how kind people are. It is wonderful to be hosted by a lovely family, they gave me so much love and space in their homes.

Indeed, a cultural exchange is a definitely a life-changing experience because it opens your mind more than ever. Your view of the world changes. It seems that countries that looked very different from each other are not that different. Through my program experience, I saw how communication, tolerance, and respect between countries is achievable.

I believe everyone should have the opportunity to be exposed beyond their comfort zones. Imagine, with this, people will be connected to the point that globalization will be a norm, and peace as a way of living.