By María José Iverson Opazo, Chile
Since I was a little girl, I’ve seen that in Chile we have been exposed to North American culture through TV, music, books, and magazines. I remember that I was in 5th grade when I had an English class for the first time, I dreamed of ever visiting the USA and its great buildings like the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, or going to an NBA game, which is my favorite and most beloved sport. I also dreamed of speaking English, so I paid a lot of attention in my classes to learn phrases that would enable me to communicate in this beautiful language. I only had one class a week, so it was hard to learn English, but my dreams were bigger. That’s why I looked for scholarships in the US for years, but for one reason or another I couldn’t go, mainly for money, since I came from a family with low incomes, but from one of those families that fight until they achieve what they want. That is why I studied English and decided to be an English teacher in Chile, to speak English and someday somehow visit this marvelous country. At the same time, for many years I have not only been a teacher, but I have also done volunteer work that has made me meet many people from around the world. People whose free time was volunteering and helping others just like I do. When I was given SUSI scholars and I saw that there were also volunteer activities within the program, I was happy to see that in the US they were also concerned about actively participating in volunteering and that they were not just a country that was interested in material things.
There it was the day I traveled to the USA to live the American Dream. With 20 other teachers from 20 different nationalities and stories behind them. Finally, I was visiting in person the majestic Statue of Liberty and all those historical buildings that only knew on TV. I had the opportunity to meet really nice people and share our lives, laughs, and anecdotes. Simultaneously, having the opportunity to learn from teachers at Amherst and ITD with great experience in their field in such a simple and close way was surprising for me. Sometimes, they were even barefoot, which showed their simplicity. I enjoyed every single place and lesson I had there, it was a dream come true.
Among all the wonderful lessons, tours, and visits I had to so many places that I will never forget, my greatest memory will be the humility of the professors at Amherst College and the ITD team, the great people behind each one. You were always humble, close, assertive people and with a positive attitude above all. Because life is not just content, the people with their simplicity, intelligence, and humility are things that I drew, and that made me realize that in the US there are people who are capable of giving a lot without expecting much in return, and for me, that is something extremely relevant to highlight. The profile of people selected for the lessons and to work in ITD emphasizes these values that today are not seen very often in a society that is each day more individualistic and distant.
In addition, these great people that I met, especially in ITD, showed that humanity and humility are more valuable than material things. Their attitude is inspiring. I still have a lot to learn, improve and grow on this path of life to be like you, but you have been people who have inspired me once again to dream and believe that many things can be done when you have a big heart like yours.
I will be eternally grateful that I met you, that I learned from you, from every place that you showed me, and that you have inspired me to continue walking in my life with big dreams. Now, I have my mind full of new ideas related to the English language and American Culture, I want to tell the world about this great experience. And of course, never forget that a big heart can accomplish all.
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.