Szarita Laitphlang is the National Coordinator for the Indian Youth Congress, where she undertakes election campaigns for Congressional candidates in the states of Meghalaya, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and trains grassroots-level party workers in various parts of India. Her first visit to the U.S. was through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Launched in 1940 and administered by IIE, IVLP connects current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term programs.
Szarita’s particular program was for Young Leaders on the U.S. Political Process. While the program helped Szarita to gain valuable insights into U.S. politics that she could apply to her professional life, she also gained new insights on Americans and American culture, deepening her global viewpoint of the United States.
Szarita developed a well-rounded perspective and understanding of the inner workings of the U.S. political process, while developing deep and meaningful relationships, two things of paramount importance to her experience. Above all, Szarita noted that she was touched by the patriotism of the Americans she met, their self-belief, their contributions towards their community, the respect they give to an individual’s freedom and lastly, their resilience in adversity.
“I always wanted to visit the land of Abe Lincoln and Brad Pitt, Big Mac and Big Apple, Hollywood and Broadway, Cheyenne and Grand Canyon...I could go on and on but I guess you get the picture.
So when I landed on the sunny beaches of Pensacola, Florida, I had begun a journey which I had always longed to undertake.
The hectic schedule punctuated with meetings in Washington did not take away charm of the intriguing Masonic Temple and the monuments steeped in history.
The snowcapped mountains of Salt Lake City did soothe the weary eyes as did the meetings and seminars stimulate the grey cells. The fascinating depths of the Mormons left an indelible mark on my mind as we travelled on to Times Square in New York where the chaotic pace overwhelmed me.
The Freedom Tower reassured me of the triumph of the human spirit, which does and always will overcome.
The appetite of the mind, sight and hearing being satiated, could the tongue and the stomach be left far behind? Of course not! I long for the Big Macs, Starbucks coffee, smoked salmon salads, and warm croissants during breakfast now that I have returned back home.
All said and done, the two things that were of paramount importance were making acquaintance with people who are now as good as a part of my family, my heart and my soul. The other was the gathering of invaluable experience about, perspective of and insight into the U.S. political process through the International Visitor Leadership Program, which was priceless.
Above all I am touched by the patriotism of the Americans, their self-belief, their contribution towards their community, the respect they give to an individual’s freedom and lastly their resilience at a time of adversity when they do actually ‘walk tall.’”
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