By Vashita Darji (YES 2019-2020, India, hosted by PAX in Sedona, AZ)
“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” means “World is one family.” Before starting my journey as a cultural ambassador, I never understood the real meaning of this quote. Meeting my host family when I first arrived at the airport was totally exciting and also scary at the same time. But the days passed, and I became part of their lives a little more every day. Living in a different family in a different land and completely different culture has changed my perspective of the world. The more I experienced, the more I learned and the more I loved.
From the beginning of my exchange, when I hesitated about sharing my feelings with my host family, to now, sharing each and every little thing with my host family, it has been a great journey. Making friends in school and adjusting to different lifestyles was certainly not easy but they helped me bridge those gaps and overcome challenges. My host family, my friends, my teachers, and my YES family have been a great support to me during the whole year and especially during these challenging times. I can say that I have many homes around the world.
There’s one story in particular I would like to share. I have a school friend whose mom would send lunch for me almost every day. And her father once said to her mother, “Now you have three daughters”—their own two daughters and me. That made me cry. It made me realize that I do have homes around the world. It touches my heart to see all the people that were once strangers to me who are now my family.
I used to volunteer at the local library and, when I first started, I was very shy. However, eventually I turned into a girl who will start conversations and loves to listen to people. One of the things that I have learned from being a cultural ambassador is to be sympathetic and be a part of people’s lives. Everyone has a story to tell and it just takes some initiative to start a conversation.
My school has been such a great part of my exchange year. I was on the cross country team and I once fell while running, but I started laughing at myself and got up and started running again. It taught me that we all have ups and downs, but you can still get up and motivate yourself. I love spending time with my host family and listening to their stories. During this pandemic time, they have been a great support for me. We cook, make jewelry, go hiking and do all sorts of activities together. I just want to say a big thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the people I have met this year and especially my host family and school for opening the doors of your home and hearts for me and accepting me as part of your lives. And I am glad that I now finally understand that the “world is one family.”