During the summer of 2018, in between the end of Grade 10 and the beginning of Grade 11, I participated in an academic summer program called the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) from June 17th to June 30th. The session that I got accepted to was the International Affairs and Security session and I was able to learn a lot about the topic that I would not have learned in my school curriculum. Over the course of two weeks, I had eight lecture, eight seminars, one simulation, which was like a Model United Nations conference, and a group project called the Capstone project where we had to decide on a topic and do a presentation about it on one of the last days. Some lectures that I listened to were from well-known professors and experts on their topic, so their lectures were really interesting and detailed. One lecture that I enjoyed was about the US intervention in Iraq from a person who used to work at the UN in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jordan, and currently works at Yale University. Even though this topic was something that I was not very familiar with, I got to learn a lot more about it and understood the controversy associated with it; whether US’s military intervention was actually beneficial to solving the problems occurring in Iraq and the Middle East. After each lecture, we also had a discussion class where I got to debate about the topic we just got lectured on and see different perspectives/opinions on it from students all around the world. Another part of the program that stuck with me was the seminars. The subjects of each of the seminars were all debatable and intriguing, making me think about them even long after it was over. The seminar that I found the most fascinating was a seminar about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh and whether if international communities have the responsibility to intervene or not. This seminar raised many questions about what it means to be an international citizen and how countries should interact with each other in our current world.
However, it was not just about the academics but also the people and the experience as a whole. As mentioned earlier, the program was for students all over the world and more than 100 countries were represented, including ones that I have never even visited or paid much attention to. Because of the wide variety, the friends I made there was also very international; from places such as Canda, United States, Zimbabwe, China, and Slovakia. This meant that I could even feel the differences as well as unexpected similarities between people around the world in such minor conversations like the ones over a dinner. This not only opened up my mind to a wide variety of perspectives and cultures but made me view the world differently. Before I came to the program, my understanding of the world was still limited even with my experiences living abroad and studying at international schools. However, the program opened up my eyes and inspired me, making me more interested in international current affairs. Moreover, I learned how my friends’ lives are nothing like the ones I’ve had and how something I view normal might seem extraordinary to them. From these discussions and conversations, I realized the importance of understanding and respecting each other’s cultural backgrounds in order to overcome the differences between us.
This summer program was a valuable experience for me in gaining knowledge about the interactions between countries around the world and the controversial world topics and issues that we are faced with today. Furthermore, it opened up my perspectives of the world and taught me the importance of respect in these inter-cultural communications. Finally, this program also allowed me to learn more about myself and what I am actually interested in pursuing, even in the future. Even now, a few months after the experience, I find myself still thinking about the issues that we discussed and the knowledge I gained through it. This taught me that I am genuinely interested in the topics covered in the program, maybe more so from the legal perspective, helping me with think further about what kind of a future I want for myself.