Guest Blogger, Erica Harding, is recent graduate of Clark Atlanta University and a 2009 alumna of the Institute on Political Journalism. In January, she participated in the Institute for Leadership in the Americas, sponsored by The Fund for American Studies. ILA is a two-week program held in Santiago, Chile for students from Latin American countries as well as U.S. students. Here, Erica shares her impressions of the program.
The first day of class is always exciting, but imagine it being in a different country! The ILA Program is set in the beautiful summer months of Santiago, Chile. I had the wonderful opportunity to befriend people from all over Latin America. It was great being only one of five U.S students in the 48-person group. I definitely felt immersed. I’ve practiced the language, eaten the food, danced to the music, visited the Pacific Ocean, taken in the panoramic view of mountains, learned so much about the various countries, but most of all made great friends. I now have a place to stay whenever I decide to travel to Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, Venezuela and Mexico!
Our timing could not have been any better because we arrived a week before the Presidential elections, and were in the midst of the debates, parades and rallies. That experience in itself reminded me so much of the United States, I really felt at home. Not only did we witness the election of President Sebastian Pinera, we were able to meet influential political figures and economists who are contributing to the rapidly growing society of Chile, much of what we studied as a part of our academic courses.
The lessons I learned were beyond textbooks. Being able to discuss political views with future leaders who are striving to make a difference in their country inspires me to be a better U.S. citizen. The relationships I have formed with the other ILA students can never be replaced and they have imbedded in me the eagerness to learn more about world issues. If you are an open-minded person and want to experience a world beyond your own, then the ILA experience is for you. Great people, great food, great lessons, great experience!