“I’m without words,” is what Thato said when he learned that his story received the coveted Global Youth Travel Extraordinary Experience award. He literally was soaking it all in and then wanted to call his mother to share the news. Thato said she, too, was speechless after she learned that her son, living half way around the world, was being recognized in such a public and personal way. “She thought I was just coming to the United States to work,” Thato explains. “She can’t believe the encouragement and support I’ve gotten since coming here.” It’s been the most incredible experience and one that I hope becomes an inspiration for others, he told me later.
Thato’s video chronicling his journey from a South African township to an internship in the United States is making its way around the internet with over 7,000 views so far. Thato is both humbled and honored and feels hopeful that his story will inspire more students to travel. Thato describes his experience as a new beginning, not just for him, but for others he hopes will follow in his determined footsteps. “Not everyone can afford an opportunity like this,” Thato muses. “Without AAG, this would not have been possible for me.” He wants to implore more employers to give foreign students with similar aspirations a similar opportunity to work, travel, learn and contribute.
This experience has not just opened doors for me, it has the potential to impact others. “Maybe someone will see my story and believe that there is always something better out there. My mother is proud of my achievements and about how my story is helping to inspire others.”
He feels that he has grown personally, professionally and profoundly through this experience. It was a dream that for Thato has surpassed any of his most hopeful expectations. Thato’s advice to anyone with a dream or a purpose is sage. “If you are given an opportunity, grab it with both hands!”