by Karina Cabral
Original article printed in Portuguese at O Livre.
Photo Credits: O Livre.
An example in her community, Mato Grosso student wins exchange in the United States
Fifty students from Brazilian public schools were chosen by the US embassy in Brazil, among 23,000 applicants, to gain an exchange in the United States. Among them is Vitoria Lissa de Oliveira Marques, 18, a Mato Grossan from São José do Rio Claro (296 km from Cuiabá), an example in her community for her leadership and volunteerism.
The program that Vitória is participating in is called Young Ambassadors and was created in 2002. A success since 2010, it has been reproduced in all the countries of the Americas. Since the program began, 522 Brazilians have participated.
Vitoria always volunteered—at school, in the church, teaching English to children in a public school—but it was in 2016 that she signed up for the program for the first time.
“My mother had a fundamental role, because she was the one who made my pre-registration, without even telling me. I remember that, as the stages went by, I became more and more surprised and I reached the final, but I was not selected,” said the young woman.
In the first attempt, as a finalist she was given the opportunity to participate in another embassy program, the EIP (English Immersion USA Program), which takes the finalists of the Young Ambassadors to a week in Brasília, where they undergo a total immersion in American culture.
“We participate in lectures and classes on culture / history and other things in the United States, in partnership with Thomas Jefferson House. This gave me an incredible view of the United States and of Brazil itself, because it contains people from all over the country,” said Victoria.
Last year, Vitória tried again and went through the entire selection process, which includes a pre-registration, sending documents to prove the written application, and a written and an oral test.
The entire process is done by a partner institution, which in Mato Grosso is the State Secretary of Education (Seduc). In the end, four finalists per state are selected—and one of them gets the chance to go to the Young Ambassadors and the other three go to the EIP.
The program is for students aged 15 to 18, who are in high school, have a good command of the Portuguese language, do some kind of volunteer work and have never been to the United States. That is, this was the last year for Victoria, who is 18 and finished high school in 2017.
Fluent English is not a requirement, but it is necessary to be at a good level of the language in order to communicate in that country. Victoria never took lessons, she learned English alone.
She is currently awaiting the outcome of the Enem, as she intends to attend medicine. In the meantime, she will spend three weeks in the United States with the Young Ambassadors, attending leadership workshops, volunteer projects, meeting government officials and US community leaders and giving presentations on Brazil.
“I’m going to stay in Washington for a few days, and then I’ll be staying at an American family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky,” she said.
With the trip coming—she goes on Friday—the young woman said that her anxiety was “at a thousand”, especially regarding meeting the family that will host her. She believes that this experience will transform her future, giving her the opportunity to broaden her worldview and improve her English.
“It’s the realization of a dream, a result of commitment. I just have to be thankful,” she said.