By: Chelsea Espino, Career Advancement Program J-1 Intern 2017

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a year living in country which is very different from where you grew up? I was born and raised in the Philippines, and I am living in Houston, Texas for a year.

I thought my time in the United States would include a simple work-home routine. Little did I know, there are many unique cultural events that happen in Houston! For example, I experienced their celebration of men and women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, as well as witnessed the week-long battle of the Houston Astros before their World Series victory.

I was absolutely unprepared for the LGBTQ pride parade, as we don’t celebrate LGBTQ equality back in my country. The whole Houston community really took part. From joining the parade, running and clapping everyone’s hands along the parade route, to dancing in the middle of the road, all those people obviously had fun. It was amazing to see every kind of person walking around in public without being scared and shy. No one was being racist or discriminatory at that time. Everyone, including me, was having fun and making new friends.

The World Series baseball games are something I did not know about before coming to the United States, either. I noticed that fans from all around the state went to downtown Houston just to support their team! I became interested in how baseball works, what teams were playing, and who they were. These were some long and tiring days for me during the World Series, since there were a lot of people out downtown who wanted to get something to eat after the game. After the Houston Astros won, I had no idea what was coming! They held a victory parade throughout the downtown area, where thousands of people gathered on the side streets, sat on a waiting shed roof, or were watching from the windows. One thing’s for sure, all of them waited for hours just to see their champion holding the trophy!

It was a lot of fun and one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. Although a lot of us in the Houston community were recently impacted by Hurricane Harvey, these celebrations show that we are united, stronger, and happier as a community.

It is not the places that amaze me the most, but the people of the United States. It has been very different from where I grew up, but here in the United States, I have grown up and become more mature because of the people around me. I’ve learned a lot from them, and their culture. Before, I was afraid of trying new things. But now I have learned that new things are always going to be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. I am now looking forward to having more experiences around the world!

Would you like to spend a year abroad, gaining crucial work and personal skills? Look into the Career Advancement Program with Greenheart Exchange, and see how you can start your adventure abroad.