International Education Day by Leandro Emanuel Garcia Vallecillos

Leandro outside with snow and trees in the background.

It was April 4th, 2018 when study abroad, international connections, future bonds between countries, and friendships from around the world were celebrated at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

It was January 7th, 2018 when I started my journey as an international student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After three months of new experiences, new ways to think, and hundreds of good stories to tell, I can surely say that is a once in a lifetime experience. As an international exchange student, I have enjoyed everyday as if there was no tomorrow; even though there are days that assignments, presentations, exams, and extracurricular activities match in the same day as if the world is aligned against you, it is part of being student.

Education is the key to sustainable development – to invest in it is the equivalent of investing in the world itself. That is why this International Education Day is an ideal opportunity to remember my initial objective in applying for the Global UGRAD Program: to make a change in my community, my country, and to help the people around me. To learn from people around me is important, and that’s why being open minded is a good piece of advice during this exchange – to express yourself or let others express. One semester has flown by; I have one month more of this exchange in front of me, and I continue living as if each day were my last day, enjoying friends from different countries, asking them to tell me more about their culture and beliefs, because all of us have good stories. Even though time is short, I have been able to make local friends and international friends that feel like we’ve known each for a long time.

It was April 19th, 2017 when I received an email saying that I was selected for this exchange. Almost a year ago my previous objectives have not changed, but now I also have new objectives, new friends, new experiences and new stories to tell.

Leandro with friends celebrating the traditional Indian festival of colors in Missouri.


To the University of Missouri-Columbia, for letting me be part of the international group of students to participate in this event. To World Learning, for supporting me during this exchange. To the U.S. Embassy, for letting me be part of the 2017-2018 Global UGRAD team. A special acknowledgement to my country El Salvador and family to let me represent them during this exchange program. To my friends because they have made this semester an incredible time, especially: Claire P, Nayeon K, Soonen S, Kiran I, Katharina M, Jeff C, Darko S, Shane M.

Written by Leandro Emanuel Garcia Vallecillos (El Salvador) a Global UGRAD 2017-2018 student at University of Missouri – Columbia