We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
This post was written by Gabriela Guerrero before her arrival in Tajikistan.
Friends at school have started calling me Tajikistan. As summer approaches, people are asking me what I’ll be up to. I respond with a short answer and the only word that sticks is the foreign country, that almost none of them have heard of and quickly question “Where is that?!” It’s comforting to know that I was in their shoes several weeks ago while I was applying to volunteer with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, a citizen diplomacy initiative that aims at breaking down stereotypes and building relationships between Americans and folks in the Muslim world. I can smile at my curious friends and let them know that Tajikistan is a country in the Middle East, once part of the Soviet Union and shares a border with western China. I’ve been placed as an intern at Tajik State University of Commerce located in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. My duties, apart from those initiated by AUA, are to help English students with conversational English and hopefully provide them with a positive perspective on Americans and our culture. The idea that I can help others and making an effort to create this learning experience is what is currently acting as my motivation. Furthermore, I keep in mind the immense amount of support that I have been blessed with in this process. I’ve never been outside of the country other than an occasional trip to Mexico so in all honesty, I don’t know what to expect, nor do I feel I should expect anything. The fear and anxiety heightens every morning I wake up and realize that my days left in the U.S are limited and because of that, I hope to retain an open mind and heart. There’s nothing I can do to fully prepare myself to the journey I am about to embark on in less than a week, but I am taking the advice and information I’ve been given to prepare myself every way I can. What I will carry with unshakable certitude are good intentions, a thirst for knowledge and hopes to create a stronger relationship between two very different countries and allow that to create a bridge of long-lasting friendships and positive change.