The best ambassadors in the whole wide world

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In honor of the International Day of Friendship on July 30, we are publishing a series of blog posts on cross-cultural friendships in the FIUTS community.

Here is a post by Anuja Khadka from Nepal, writing about her experience in 2014 as a participant in the Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and New Media. Anuja and the other 19 participants from South Asia were all matched with a University of Washington student "Ambassador" who provided guidance, cultural insight, and friendship during their time in Seattle.

Can you imagine somebody being so close to you within a month that you tear up when you leave that person? Well, it happened for us in the SUSI program. It was not only for one single Ambassador but all amazing human beings of the whole team.

The friendship with the UW Ambassadors began with the opening dinner. I still don’t know whether it was supposed to be casual dinner but even my SUSI friends who dressed up casual ended wearing formal in the last minute. It was really funny for my friends to look at each other and change immediately to not be odd one out. However, somewhere in the deep corner, I believe that was the beginning of the respect towards the friendship with our Ambassadors through our dress up.

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2014 was my year of participation. The program assigns SUSI Ambassadors for each one of the participants every year. My Ambassador was Jiachun, originally from China. Our first introduction was in our first dinner and she thought that I would find it difficult to pronounce her name. No matter, I pronounced it correct in one try and she was so happy. Since then, wherever we went, we always held our hands together.

She was always standing next to not only me but my friends to make the moment happier. She never lagged behind to guide me throughout the whole program. Sharing was never ending. We would stare at each other in the middle of the conversation to empathise each other and laugh calling ourselves silly. We were so different, representing completely different cultures. That was never a stopping point for us from getting strongly bonded with respect. I can’t explain to you our giggles. SUSI was not only about my own Ambassador but all the Ambassadors who were close to all of us as a family. We laughed our heart out.

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There was no issue of being uncomfortable. From the funny jokes to serious problem solutions, they were the ones to help us. You ask me what didn’t happen with Ambassadors and SUSI friends? From spending whole night sleeping under the stars with them to Ambassadors knocking the door to wake us up early in the morning because we ran late for the class. Thank you for saving us. From trekking in the rain to sharing warm jackets. From dancing in the middle of the street to crying on the shoulders. From being a silent person to a talkative one. From having a confused face to a happy one. From learning US culture to sharing our own South Asian cultures. From being someone to someone special. From emptiness to full. It sounds so emotional. I just want to cherish the good memories.  It was all possible because of the strong friendship we had.

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I have lots of letters from our Ambassadors safe and sound. Farewell wasn’t easy. Post-farewell was awful. We badly started to miss everybody. Thanks to SUSI. Thanks to technology for keeping us connected and strengthening our friendship till today.

The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars. Study of the U.S. Institutes are short-term academic programs for groups of undergraduate leaders, educators, and scholars from around the world.

The SUSI on Journalism and New Media with students from South Asia was coordinated by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), a local non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington that promotes international friendship and cross-cultural understanding in the region. This program took place from 2014-2016.

Guest posts on the FIUTS blog represent the experiences and views of individual writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FIUTS or any organizations or institutions affiliated with our programs.