25 May 2021
The UNESCO and LingoBridge's team celebrated World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development by organizing an event that brought together young people worldwide including, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, the USA, and Italy, Bulgaria to promote cross-cultural understanding and international dialogue.Three speakers with broad experience of living and studying in international and multicultural environments were invited to share their stories and ideas about exploring the world. The speakers highlighted the significance of developing cultural awareness and the benefits of interacting with people across cultures. They also touched upon matters of the comfort zone and shared their thoughts on why it is essential to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Caitlin Durnbaugh from the United States has recently graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Human Development & Family Studies as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She traveled more than 6000 km to Spain to witness different cultures and a pace of life. She says, “This exposed me to a blend of cultures ranging from Islamic and Arab influences of the South, to Spanish and European influences of the North. It is this trip in particular that changed the direction of my career to return to Europe and serve for NGOs in refugee relief.”
Anthony Bou-Chrouche represented North America and the Middle East. He is a native speaker of English, French, and Arabic. He was born in Lebanon and lived there until his family immigrated to Canada because of the war. By the time Anthony turned 16, his family had to move to Dubai due to personal circumstances. Now he is enrolled in the Joint Honours program in Political Science and Economics at the University of Ottawa. Having extensive experience of living in three countries, he made some recommendations on how to adjust to an unaccustomed environment. Anthony also explained the adaptation graph he drew based on his observations.
Tomasso Aguzzi is a Ph.D. candidate within the Innovative Training Network MARKETS program (EU-MSCA Fellowship) at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. He holds a double MSc degree in Global Studies from the University of Vienna, Austria, and Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark, as well as a bachelor’s degree in International Development and Cooperation from the University of Bologna, Italy. He lectured at Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages and worked at the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia in Almaty, Kazakhstan. During the meeting, everyone was impressed by his wide traveling experience.
The speakers and participants also played Kahoot, prepared by Anthony Bou-Chrouche, and tested their geography, general-knowledge skills, and how well they listened to the speakers. We also looked at where the meeting attendees would like to study; the destinations included the USA, some European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Asian countries (Japan, China), but the most creative and unexpected place to study appeared to be the moon.
Lessons learned from the meeting:
-The pros of living and studying in a different country outweigh the cons. Therefore, step out of your comfort zone, explore the world and meet new faces.
-Studying abroad broadens your international connections, which in turn helps you build up a sense of empathy.
-The cultures can be very different, but it is noteworthy to realize that we all share the same values and goals; we all want to love and be loved, be safe and happy.
-Befriend locals, allow yourself to adapt to a new environment, and get the most out of every single experience.
-Living in a country where you do not speak the language can be challenging. The advice is to find friends who can speak both the language you know and the local language so that you can get insights into the mother tongue of the locals step by step.
Going abroad to study is life-enriching and can inevitably broaden the horizons and open up one’s eyes! The best part of exposing yourself to an entirely different culture is being able to gain new perspectives and sharing your background and culture to promote understanding and peace.
Happy World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development!