This is what the U.S.A. taught me: My recent experience there!

I’ m not the kind of person who has self trust or truly believe in itself. Most of the times, I was afraid of taking risks or enjoying the opportunities that appeared to me, merely because failure was scaring me. I used to live a safe and comfortable life, being into my “small box” that didn’t allow me to look outside or expand my knowledge.

One day, during a lecture, my professor Mrs Alexia Panayiotou, has announced about the program “Study of the U.S Institutes (SUSIs) for student leaders from Europe on social entrepreneurship” for the following summer. The program was funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, whose mission is to promote mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and the people of other countries.

Although I have given up my hopes for getting chosen, my respect and appreciation towards the professor have driven me to apply to the program.

This was the first time in my life taking a decision so fast.

The procedure continued and the US Embassy in Cyprus called us for the next step, which was the personal interview. For an unexplained reason, this went really well and I left content. However, several months after the interview, I couldn’t keep my hopes up since I had no updates about this issue.

One day after a looong time, it happened!

I had a call from Mrs Sondra Sainsbury from US Embassy telling me that I have been selected to represent Cyprus in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA, studying Social entrepreneurship for 5 whole weeks!

I couldn’t believe it, I thought that they may have been mistaken, maybe something went wrong.

But it was true: they have selected a shy girl who didn’t believe in herself, closed to her comfort zone, without confidence in english language, terrified also of airplanes, to travel from this tiny island to the other side of the world, losing her graduation day, staying with 21 strangers (the other European leaders) for 5 whole weeks.

That time I felt that my heart was going to stop. This was going to be the craziest thing I have ever done!

And you know what? Yes, this was the craziest experience. And I liked it.

Actually I loved it. For me, the SUSI program was not just an exchange program. It was a way to discover myself, start believing in my own strength, and learn that thinking outside of the box is fun!

During this journey I have discovered the U.S.A. And I have realized that it doesn’t look like the one we usually see in American movies. In fact it is better.

Why? The answer is: because of its people. I was so lucky to meet some of the most beautiful people of my life. Talented professors in the University of Tennessee have taught us the meaning of social entrepreneurship, management and diversity.

Passionate entrepreneurs and well-known persons in the community and politics shared with us their stories, including their failures. American families in Chattanooga have treated us like their own family members and the locals invited us in the United States, feeling like home.

I was also very amased about how our mentors, coordinators and directors organized all this.

I have to admit that they have done everything they could for us in order to have the most unforgettable experience. They became our friends and this was hard, because they made “good bye” the most awful word.

Last but not least, I can’t say that I didn’t get tired. It was for sure the most exhausting journey. We became volunteers, by helping children, elderly people and people in need. We have walked long distances. until we had the feeling of falling down.

We have learned to live and become friends with other people and appreciate different customs, religions and cultures. We have learned what team working is, after arguing and making mistakes million times. We have also learned that every single person in this planet is special and different, full of strengths and talents.

And most importantly, we have learned how essential is to find and develop our own WHY.

Thank you America for everything.

Thank you all for making this dream real! I can now believe in myself and feel stronger, independent and able to do big things.

I am writing this because I want to share my experience with you, all of you, who do not believe in yourselves and tell you that you are strong enough to change the world!

And if I had to choose what was the most important thing U.S.A. taught me, I would probably answer that I was taught to dare. Dare taking risks and accept challenges after trusting myself; dare making mistakes and fall down and then stand up again.

To dare to start something that matters for the society and for the world.

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