Erika, 19, is about to engage in her first political act. A Chicana student from the Los Angeles area, Erika will be attending the World Festival of Youth and Students in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 6-13. This reporter will be following her as she takes part in the festival. Here are her thoughts as she gets ready for the trip.

What made you get involved in the Los Angeles organizing committee?

At first I was skeptical of joining the delegation, mostly because I was scared and uninformed. But once I heard more of what was going on at the festival, I became very interested.
For me, it’s a big step out of my comfort zone, since I’m mostly a homebody, but being able to explore an environment different than my own is something that greatly interests me — plus being able to interact with so many individuals different from myself is so exciting.

Has your view of society, political or otherwise, changed since you heard about the festival?

Yes, very much so. I thought I knew a lot about the world, about our country, and I thought it was all true, but I’ve discovered that you really can’t believe everything you hear. No matter how much you want to believe in something, or think what you know is true, you should always question everything.
There are going to be people who are willing to do anything to get you on their side; therefore, it’s important to me, now, to really try to find all sides of the story, and make my own decision, not just regurgitate what is said to me.

What are your expectations going into the festival?

I am trying not to have any expectations, mostly because I don’t want to be let down in any way. I’m just trying to keep an open mind and take things as they come. I want to learn a lot of information and have fun doing it.

Is there a country whose youth you would like to dialog with?
If I could, I would like to talk with youth from Africa and Iraq. I think it would be important to me to talk to youth from those countries because they are going through huge struggles. I would like to hear their opinions on what is going on in their countries and what they believe we could do to help.

What part of the festival are you looking forward to going to?

Some of the things I’m looking forward to are great food and meeting even greater people. I can’t wait to share ideas with people from all over the world. I know many people will have completely different views than me on many subjects, but I always have an open mind. I also want to learn about the different struggles people are dealing with and hopefully find ways that I can help once I return home.