My Valuable YLAI Experience

Jeanida Azor_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyWritten by Jeanida Azor, 2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Alumna and President of AFD'I

Extraordinary things happen when you get out of your comfort zone. And, it takes me to participate at the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative YLAI program to be aware of how much I can accomplish personally, professionally, and also as a leader and entrepreneur. Those five weeks have changed my life in so many ways, and it is very difficult to put everything that I lived there in words.

When I first stepped out in the States in September, I was so excited even though I ignored what exactly was going to happen. But at the same time, deep inside of me, I knew that this would be a life-changing experience.

The first stop was in Detroit for the program opening where I attended interesting conferences and also I met a lot of open-minded leaders and entrepreneurs all over Latin America and the Caribbean. For the next coming weeks I was in Salt Lake City, Utah with 9 strangers from Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Venezuela, Brazil. Soon, all of us became friends and family. I was placed at the Women Business Center of Utah which is an NGO providing trainings and consultations to women who want to open their own businesses. This is also where I learned about the best practices to run and grow an organization and had the opportunity to work with very nice, smart and strong people. My connections have multiplied, I met a lot of women, and potential partners.

Jeanida Azor_Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Overall, I can say what matters the most are the simple but crucial things I learned during this experience.

1- Be curious: In my opinion, curiosity will make you smarter. By constantly asking the good questions to the good persons, you can have a lot of information and learn a lot as well.

2- Be bold: For me it meant go for it, put your fear away, get out of your comfort zone and you will be amazed of how much you could accomplish. An entrepreneur has to be a daring person.

3-Experiencing changes: Opening up your mind to new ideas allows you to the opportunity to change what you think and how you view the world. Now, this doesn't mean you necessarily will change your beliefs, but you have the option to when you think with an open mind. 

4- Making mistakes: I learned to not be afraid to make mistakes. When you open your mind and allow yourself to see things from others' perspectives, you allow yourself not only to recognize potential mistakes you've made, but also to make new mistakes. Doesn't sound like much fun, but it's a great thing to fall and get back up again. 

5- Gain confidence: This experience at the YLAI program makes me gain more confidence in myself. I met people who like and congratulate me for the good job I'm doing in my home country. this is sensational and so inspiring.

Jeanida Azor_Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Thanks again to the US Department of State, Meridian International Center, and UCCD which has plan tactfully this wonderful event!