My YLAI journey began one evening in February 2018 when a close friend of mine stumbled upon the fellowship announcement on social media and he considered it a great opportunity for me.
Since I had over 3 years of professional experience in tourism management and I was developing 3 start-ups in tourism, I realized the need for availing a leadership and skills-enhancing opportunity at a city in the United Stated. I eagerly submitted my YLAI application and fortunately, I was awarded the YLAI fellowship.
YLAI came to me as a ray of light in the darkness, by the time of my visa interview Nicaragua was going through the toughest political and social crisis I have experience in my entire life, so to me this was not just an opportunity to learn but also an opportunity to breath and sort of escape for a moment the drama and the distress the entire country was suffering.
On September 19th, I departed Nicaragua to start my YLAI experience in the United States. I arrived in Detroit on a rainy evening. Truth be told, I felt overwhelmed that evening as I checked into my hotel room.
When I finally got to know my city hub fellows, everything got even more exciting. I was part of a mixed group (9 Spanish native speaker, 3 English native speakers and 1 Haitian creole native speaker). The thirteen of us bonded very fast – so fast, that we were having gathering in each other’s apartment from the first day. Those gatherings were everything, a way to get to know each other on a deeper level, share experiences and dream together.
The first week in Miami, I had the chance to meet my mentor Lynare Robbins and everyone at the office and to get a better perspective of the LGBTIQ life in the city.
During the following weeks, I began to attend networking events, cultural fairs, galas and appointments with LGBITQ organizations, met influential LGBTIQ actors of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and LGBTIQ tourist business owners. In addition, I had the honor to have met the Vice President of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), Ms. LoAnn Halden who invited me and offered to sponsor my participation in the 2019 IGLTA Annual Global Convention in New York, that is the world’s premier educational and networking event for LGBTQ tourism professionals which I am planning to attend in April 2019.
I am honored and thankful for this experience and I am confident to say that this opportunity has been eye-opening and it has enhanced my leadership skills. I plan to keep in touch with my YLAI fellows, mentors and all the professionals I met during the fellowship, I believe these connections will add to my growth as a leader, to connect with new peers across the region (Latin America and the U.S.), and share new ideas to strengthen our business models and positively impact our local communities.
In the nearby future, I will strive to diligently and effectively execute the skills and knowledge that I acquire in the US advance my start-up and boost the employment and inclusion of LGBTIQ individuals through tourism. It is my objective to become a pioneer and exemplary figure in the LGBTIQ community in Nicaragua so that other individuals who have an interest in the corporate world feel inspired and encouraged to implement their ideas and pursue their dreams.