How does anyone become culturally competent? What is the value of travel? What are the benefits of visiting or residing in a country that is starkly different than your own? These are questions of consideration with a variance of answers from people that come from cultures that are both similar and uniquely different. This last year has forced many of us to examine aspects of our belief system.  We have taken personal inventories of our understanding of race, elitism, politics, choice, intertwined economies, freedoms, illness and a litany of other topics of concern.  A4Y knows that the world in which we reside is vast.  But it has become much smaller with the evolution of technologies that allow us to visit a place without leaving the comfortable confines of our most beloved recliner. 

It’s realistic to visit Rome without ever putting a foot on Italian grounds.  Where I do believe it is possible to appreciate long histories of “there to here” and to celebrate a basic understanding of Roman I’d be remiss not to claim that the most lasting impression in gaining cultural insight is to visit Rome.  A boots on the ground experience. I imagine getting seated by the window on a commercial airline and 9 hours later landing on the tarmac in a glorious capital city. A4Y gathers its bag at the turnstile, negotiates customs and exchanges some dollars for euros. We courageously walk out of the Aero Porte to begin our adventure called Italy.  I am aware of the sights and sounds and smells and am constantly forming an impression that will ultimately impact the way I think. More significantly perhaps the way I choose to live my life.  Lasting impressions are made by engaging in the process of cultural absorption.   Conversations with locals that lend insight into any aspect of culture.  Thoughts on religion, immigration, art, fashion, architecture, and food lend beneficial in understanding, more deeply a place that I have visited once maybe to return to years from now. But those singular and collective experiences provide the traveler an opportunity to gain insight and validate a point of view that culture matters.  It better allows us to appreciate where I come from! It allows me to compare Italian food to other ethnic cuisines. It allows me to compare Italian architecture to buildings in my own home town.  It allows me to contribute to a conversation about the struggling European economy.  It is in these thoughts and exchanges that I recognize that in those 1000 Italian impressions I have come to appreciate the impact of my exploration in better understanding the competency of compared cultures and support my desire to continue down a path of discovery. So who is ready to travel with the Ambassador for Youth? More significantly who is willing to share with us some of what you have learned?