Alexandros Smyrniotis

Summer Institute on Youth, Education, and Closing the Skills Gap at University of Massachusetts, Boston
2019 Fulbright Student Leader

From Athens to Boston
From Boston to Boca Raton
From Boca Raton to Washington D.C.

The Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders was the most fulfilling and unique experience of my life! Along with an international group of twenty people, this program offered me the opportunity to engage in deep, mind-broadening conversations and get exposed in the vast and diverse spectrum of the American and European cultures.

In the long but also very short span of five weeks, we were thrown into the vast and vague topic of Skills Gap. We had speakers from various positions and statuses that all gave their different viewpoints on education. Equal versus Equitable access in education, the quality of education and the evolution of the workforce, are only some of the aspects of society that we concluded contribute to the so-called Skills Gap.

Although the academic intensity of this program was high, it was not only lectures and workshops. We visited famous landmarks, neighborhoods that exist since the mid 1600’s like the North End in Boston and natural reserves such as the Everglades in Florida. We explored new tastes and cuisines and had firsthand contact with all the cultures America has to offer. If I had to highlight some of the experiences we shared, I would without a doubt talk about the Garifuna tribe and our volunteer time at the Fessenden School. 

The Garifuna are a mix of Africans that escaped from slave ships and slowly integrated into the society of the Native tribes that nursed them. We met one of the last remaining families of the Garifuna after they gave a concert to share and preserve their culture. A culture that slowly fades away in time. The humble bow and the tears of the Father that ran along his face after I thanked him, will be a picture that will forever stay with me. As for our volunteer time, we worked along with the 3 Point Foundation. Hosted by the Fessenden School in Newton, we met kids from struggling families and dangerous neighborhoods that where walking to success! Proving the power of the human spirit, at least one of them got a full scholarship for the Fessenden School!

In these wonderful five weeks, our SUSI group, our program coordinators and our cultural ambassadors quickly became what we call a “SUSI Family”. Saying goodbye (at least for now) was heartbreaking, but as my friend Lorenzo wonderfully stated: “We shouldn’t be sad because our exchange period over, but we should instead be happy because it happened”. I am eternally glad for this program and for the people I met. May we meet again…

SMYRNIOTISAlexandros

FULBRIGHT FOUNDATION - GREECE

Scholarships for US and Greek Citizens
Educational Advising / Study in the USA

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