In January 2019, the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana (WAC) partnered with World Learning to welcome twelve Brazil Youth Ambassadors to the Louisville, Kentucky! During the twelve day visit they learned how social justice and volunteerism helps shape the community. Some local organizations students met with include: the Muhammad Ali Center, The Table, and the YouthBuild Louisville.

This time around, WAC was curious to learn more about the exchange’s impact from the perspective of a single student. Among the twelve youth ambassadors, Odir gave WAC an inside look of what goes on in a typical day of programs and life with his host family.

Odir’s stay was in the warm and welcoming home of Lara and Jim Zuber. Lara and Jim have a daughter, Elena, and another long-term guest who is from Japan (and currently working with WAC) Ayako!

“I was kind of shy at the beginning, because I didn’t know how they would receive me, how were their habits, or etc. But they made me feel like home, they treated me very well, and we become friends really fast.” – Odir

Odir started his day waking up around 8:00 a.m. before he had to meet at WAC by 9:30 a.m. He ate breakfast with the Zubers and caught a ride to the office with his host-sister, Ayako. WAC is proud to provide transportation assistance to families who need it!

Every day starts with his fellows youth ambassadors, WAC staff, and World Learning Leader, giving brief check-ins and overview of the day’s itinerary. From WAC’s offices, students load into the van and the day begins!

Odir and his fellow youth ambassadors spent a morning with a visit to duPont Manual High School where they made instant connections with the journalism and communications class. They discussed important social justice topics that revolved around prejudice political figures, LGBTQ issues, and comparing similarities of overall acceptance within the community in Louisville as well as each ambassador’s hometown in Brazil. The world did not seem so small when the youth ambassadors and Manual high school students were able to relate on common difficulties they face.

“Lara cooked rice once, which is the most popular dish in Brazil, we Brazilians eat it almost every day. It was good to eat Brazilian food while I was in the U.S.” – Odir

Odir and his peers had new experiences in regards of being introduced to new foods that they have not had before. Their first day in Louisville, WAC took the ambassadors to Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant where some of the foods that we do not think are spicy had been spicy to the ambassadors. After their experience there it seemed that the theme of their trip revolved around randomly saying “spicy” instead of “cheese” for group photos or inside jokes between WAC and the ambassadors.

In between spicy group photos, group activities, and wrapping up the day of events, there was always time for Odir to snap photos of his peers, singing songs in the van, or dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. Odir and his peers taught their new Louisville friends a very popular dance that everyone from their hometowns are familiar with. By the end of their visit, most of Odir’s acquaintances and friends had all learned the infamous dance. Being at home with the Zubers, Ayako even taught Odir how to make sushi one night and though the thrill of trying new things, it was nice for Odir to be reminded of somewhere familiar.

Another program that Odir attended was incorporating his valued opinions of world issues with students that are part of the UCREW at the Muhammad Ali Center. The students learned the infamous dance from Odir and his peers, they had conversations of getting to know UCREW members over pizza, and everyone helped each other form opinions of the “Why Statement”. This was a powerful program to see American students and Brazilian students come together to correlate tactics of social entrepreneurship and putting it into a hypothetical social enterprise.

It was a very quick twelve days for the youth ambassadors. Odir has returned home to continue volunteering his time to teach English to those who are wanting to learn in his community. One of the important things that he wants to apply to interacting with people is that there is no limit when it comes to building connections either in or outside of your area. Odir values the new knowledge he can apply to his daily life back home and to show others that they too can expand their horizons beyond the imaginable.

“It impacted my point of view of the world. All the workshops […] I had opened my eyes about so many things that I don’t even know how to describe it.” – Odir

If you are interested in opening your home to an international student, please visit WAC’s Host Family & Volunteer webpage and contact Laura Duncan, Visitor Program Manager, [email protected].