24 March 2016

*Taking Advantage of Proximity*

My year abroad has taken me far away from home, but at the same time has brought me far closer to certain things. I'm closer to knowing what I want to be when I grow up, who I am. I'm closer with my American family in certain ways, despite the distance. I've become close with my French family. I am closer to French cultural and linguistic fluency. The list goes on and on, but recent events make me want to mention one specific thing - being in France has brought me closer to so many undiscovered places. 

I've visited Paris, somewhere that used to be a faraway fairytale but is now only a few hours away. I traveled to Prague, and didn't even change time zones. I've been to so many fantastic French cities that before we're not even a part of my imagination, but now are practically in my backyard. I'm planning my spring break with a friend, and we're talking about going to Barcelona because it's "close." Currently, I'm riding the train home from Luxembourg. 

I list all of this not to make you jealous , but because I am realizing the immense fortune I have to be so close to such a diverse array of places. My trip to Luxembourg truly emphasized this idea - I was there for a Global Issues Network conference. The conference was absolutely incredible - student run, with fascinating keynote speakers and student presentations. But despite the incredible innovations and ideas shared with me, what really struck me was the diversity of origins. I was there from France, but also as an American. In many settings, this would be considered confusing or abnormal. 

At GIN, my peers were of Spanish-French origin studying in Switzerland - to give one example. SYA Italy - formerly a distant group of similarly minded students - attended as well. (Getting to meet some of them was incredible and a bit surreal!) Me being nearly trilingual was average. Students from Dubai, Turkey, all over the European Union had assembled with as much nonchalance as a group of east coast American schools. However, this group of schools offered most valuably, in my opinion, the incredible wealth of knowledge and world perspectives that this facilitated. One of the most discussed topics was the refugee crisis - and we had the opportunity to discuss it with asylum seekers in Luxembourg , as well as Germans and Greeks, some of the key players, not to mention so many other perspectives. Each of the different perspectives enriched the conversation immensely, even though the opinions were very different at times. The unique mix caused so many stories were told and fascinating discussions to develop - I have never been so inspired by people my own age.

The train ride to these inspiring conversations took only a few hours, yet upon arrival I was immersed in a different culture and a completely different atmosphere thoughtful discussion. I felt truly lucky to be so close to such a diverse group of students that allowed for multifaceted discussions. Europe seems special to me in that it contains so many unique cultures in such close proximity. For me, the conference truly highlighted this. In the few short months I have left, I look forward to continuing to explore my new country and continent - and I encourage any one else that has the opportunity (at you , SYA class of 2017) to do the same.

SYA Blog - March Post 

***photos and more thoughts on the conference will appear soon


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