Global Young Leader shares experience
he 10 days which I spent between Washington, DC, and New York were quite memorable. Not only was I allowed to integrate with teenagers from other cultures and from other countries, but I was also able to learn the skills needed to be a proficient leader in the world. Each day was a new learning experience from which, I believe, I profited greatly.
The first five days of the trip were spent at the Sheraton Hotel in Pentagon City, Washington, DC. This is where most of the leadership skill building was done. Each scholar was placed in one of nine country groups. I was placed in the ‘China’ country group with 24 other teenagers and an adviser. The other persons were from different parts of the world, from as near as the Dominican Republic and as far as Japan.
We had several intensive meetings as a group. These meetings were called leadership group meetings, or LGMs. The focus of the LGMs was to make us aware of different cultures, to build our communication skills, as well as to create innovative ideas and logical solutions to current world issues.We were even given the chance to openly discuss historical conflicts and wars within different countries, such as the Holocaust, in particular.
In addition to world issues, we also focused on the current issues of ‘China’ and proceeded to devise practical solutions to them. Our LGMs were also used to prep us for the two global simulations. The first was the United Nations Security Council. Each country group was broken into smaller groups to represent our country’s interest and to create solutions to the settlement dispute in Cyprus. The members of these smaller groups were foreign ministers, ambassadors and information attachés. In my division, I was given the role of the ambassador. In the commission itself, I presented ‘China’s’ solution and was given the opportunity to
negotiate with the other country leaders on the solutions put forth.
Other than the simulations, there were also various speakers who came to talk with us about their careers and how it impacted the world. They encouraged us to be impactful as well. Two of the speakers who really stood out for me were Dr Gary Weaver and Mr Brian Lemek. The former spoke about how we should be open-minded, to know the difference between generalisation and stereotypes, and to be aware and respectful of an individual’s culture. The latter, Mr Lemek, presented on how one idea can make a tremendous impact. He has proven this a reality as he has an international organisation called Peace Players International. This organisation has helped children of different backgrounds to come together to play basketball as a means to breaking barriers.
Besides these discussions and speakers, we were also given the opportunity to go site seeing. We went to very significant and famous locations in the capital. These included the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Women’s Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veteran Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the White House and Museums of the Smithsonian Institute. Before visiting each sight, we were briefed on their significance and why they were built in the capital. We were supposed to have visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum but, unfortunately, it was closed due to faulty machinery.
The National World War II Memorial really humbled me as I was faced with the raw cost of war. It took me some time to realise that the wall of stars was not there for decoration but as a way to recognise the thousands who had died defending their country at the hands of war, greed and power.
We were also given the chance to visit an embassy. My group went to the Embassy of Sri Lanka. We were told of the vast diversity of the island – religion, climate and its inhabitants. It was an informative experience and we were also given the chance to sample Sri Lankan tea. Fun was not left out of the picture as we had what they called the ‘GYLC Olympics’, which was two hours of friendly competition with the other county groups. In the end, ‘China’ won. The Washington, DC experience seemed longer than five days due to those intense sessions and activities, but the rest of the experience was ahead in New York. On the way, there we stopped at the University of Pennsylvania.