Though I’ve only had 23 years to come up with philosophy on life, all my experiences and life events have boiled down into one theme, if there is not risk there is no gain. When I was 17 I decided I wanted to be extraordinary. At the time I did not know what that meant or how to go about it. All I knew is that I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing; I wanted to make my own path in life. Just a few short months later I was on my way to the bottom of the world, Punta Arenas Chile, the southern most city on the planet. I had been accepted to be a foreign exchange student for a year and repeat my senior year of high school at Liceo Maria Auxiliadora. Deciding to pick up and move to Chile at the age of 17, knowing that I would not see my family for a year was difficult, but in the end it turned out to be the right decision.
During that year I experienced my greatest breakthroughs and most depressing moments. I was living in Chile at the time the United States first declared war on terrorism. I was the minority in every sense of the word. I was not just a foreigner to those around me, I was an American. I spent half my time trying to fit in to my new culture and the other half defending my homeland. Some days I felt like a celebrity when the elementary school children would come up and ask for my autograph and then turn around and feel like a terrorist when the protestors in the street would tell me to go back to my country. The nuns at my all-girl Catholic school would ask me to leave the room during tests so I didn’t distract the “real” students and then my friends and I would all meet up for “once” or tea time once school was over. Though the year was full of exciting events, I feel that I grew and matured more during my time abroad than in all the other years combined. I learned how to be independent and how to respect another person’s point of view without having to compromise my own beliefs. Had I not taken advantage of the opportunity to be a foreign exchange student, as the saying goes, I would have never known what it is like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
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