International Convention is hands down one of the best experiences; however, the week before is life-changing. Before International Convention begins, Global Ambassadors Week takes place. During Global Ambassadors Week, around 250 delegates from nearly 40 countries come together for a week of programming and cultural immersion in IC’s host city. However, instead of staying in hotels, families volunteer to host teens in their homes. In 2018, IC was held in Florida and Gold Coast Region had the opportunity to host the International Delegation. In early February, my region was filled with teens from all over the world from Uruguay to Denmark to China.
The teens came and lived with us for a week. While Gold Coast teens went to school during the day, the International Delegates attended various excursions and programs throughout South Florida. After school, however, was a blank canvas. Every day my best friends and I would do something different with our new friends. We went to malls, beaches, ice cream shops, and hung out by the pool. One night, a few of my friends and I took everyone to hibachi—something they’d never experienced before. This week was all about trying new things for both sides. We all picked up on each other’s customs and learned about our similarities and differences. It was so nice to see two completely different groups of friends, from completely different sides of the world, instantly connect and have a great time.
Our time spent together was priceless. I got to spend a week with two more brothers in my home. We played sports, video games, watched TV, and conversed. I had the opportunity to hear and understand what BBYO is like in other parts of the world, and what being Jewish is like in other countries. I learned that in certain parts of the world, teens have to participate in BBYO secretly and cannot freely practice Judaism at home. Realizing that BBYO is one of their only outlets of knowing a Jewish community was extremely eye-opening.
One night, a local chapter hosted an event where teens and their hosts gathered for a night of making friends, dancing, and having fun. This allowed us to meet even more of the International Delegation before IC. That night, I got to meet some of my guests’ best friends, and made connections with my brothers and sisters from around the world.
On Friday night, everyone celebrated Shabbat with their host families. At our Shabbat, we exchanged customs and traditions, which opened my eyes to the strong similarities we share at heart.
We spent the whole day together on Saturday. We went to the mall and had some fun on the beach. We swam, listened to music, shared laughs, but most importantly, we continued strengthening our friendships. On Saturday night, Gold Coast Region hosted a dance for the entire community for the entire International Delegation. With music, a fun and interactive ice cream sandwich bar, and friends old and new, the dance was definitely a highlight for everyone and got us pumped for International Convention.
If you have the opportunity to host teens, do it. With fun activities, language and cultural immersion, and unforgettable friends that last a lifetime, Global Ambassadors Week is a life-changing experience, and I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything.
Sophie Gaer is a proud BBG from L’Olam BBG in Gold Coast Region. You can find her with a camera in her hand, drinking iced coffee, or dribbling down the court.
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