With the technological advances brought on in the last century, the world is getting smaller and smaller each day. We have the ability to use an uncountable number of internet-based applications to communicate with someone on the opposite side of the world as if they were in the very same room as us. In theory, these advances should bring the world closer together and allow everyone to have a greater sense of global awareness and multicultural understanding.
Saint Augustine of Hippo once said, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I’ve always taken this to mean that if a person doesn’t travel, or find another way to learn about cultures beyond their immediate community, they’ll never have a full understanding of the world they live in. The sad reality is many people today have never gotten past that first page. This is the one of the problems that the One World Youth Project is aiming to solve.
Being new to my position as Program Coordinator here at OWYP, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the 2012 Summer Training Conference in Kosovo. Bringing together twelve students from six universities in five different countries at the Summer Training Conference would be the first time I had a chance to engage with this year’s Project Manager Fellows.
Arriving in Kosovo five days before the conference began, I had the chance to look over the conference curriculum and acclimate myself to the beautiful Hotel Magra where we were lodging. Flipping through the lesson plans for the week, I was blown away by how great a job the rest of the OWYP staff had done in preparing the workshops. The following days just built my anticipation to begin the conference and I didn’t have to wait long, as our students all had arrived by the weekend.
Even though we had scheduled so many activities and running the conference required long hours every day, the week flew by quickly. As I reflect on the conference, there are a few things that stick out to me. For one, our PMFs are some of the most talented and proactive university students that I have ever met. Through talking with each student during the week, I came to understand their motivations behind joining the OWYP team and why they want to lead the OWYP program in their own communities.
I was impressed with each of them, from Jack Moriarty of Boston University telling me his goal of improving education policy after law school to Shahzeb Mirza of NUST in Pakistan discussing a business he started that aimed to improve farming conditions in his hometown. Being around these students and seeing their potential to be so successful during the school year has only motivated me that much more to provide the support necessary for them to own the success of their hubs. By helping them achieve this, I will be helping them accomplish exactly what the Summer Training Conference was meant to prepare them for.
While the activities we, as the OWYP staff, prepared for the week all turned out excellent, with numerous skills being transferred to the PMFs, the highlight was when the PMFs facilitated workshops they themselves created. The topics they covered, from motivating their team to public speaking tips, were exactly the types of skills they’ll be transferring to their Pas during the year. I was proud to see the PMFs incorporating techniques we had shown them earlier in the week into their own presentations, such as multiple styles of co-facilitation presented in a workshop by myself & my co-worker Scott.
Perhaps the most inspirational activity of the week was when our Executive Director Jess told her story about founding OWYP. As she recalled finding her passion for providing learning environments for students to develop a global mindset, and her journey in creating a global network for students to do so, I felt myself nodding my head more and more vigorously in agreement. As I scanned the room I could see the PMFs doing the same. I could feel myself swelling with pride because I am now a part of bringing OWYP’s mission to fruition.
As I later talked to the PMFs about their most memorable experiences during the week, I received many different answers. From bonding with their new team members to hiking up the beautiful mountains adjacent to Hotel Magra, the week was full of great times, but more than a handful of them spoke about how they related to Jess’ speech, connecting with her need to address the problems in education locally and nationally, and how it gave them that much more motivation to go back to their home countries and lead an effective education program to the best of their abilities.
For pictures and videos of the 2012 Summer Training Conference, visit our Pinterest board at this link: http://pinterest.com/owyp/summer-training-conference/