By Collin Savage '16
I was hired recently as a co-facilitator for the Many Languages One World conference with the United Nations Academic Impact. Participants were university students chosen from across the globe, ten students for each of the six official UN languages. The students were to make presentations on the promotion and importance of education and how to better the world through education. They were also to give these presentations in the UN General Assembly. Here's the catch- the languages of the presentation could not be the native or institutional languages of the participants.
I was working with the French-speaking group, whose participants came from Tunisia, Spain, Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, the US, and England. The lead facilitator was also from the US. I met them one by one as their flights arrived, and the conversations picked up- conversations that ran in over 5 languages.
The presentations by all groups were great on every account, but what struck me the most was how everyone acted off stage. Conversations were jump-in-jump-out between everyone, no longer divided by their groups. The conversations ranged from movies to dances to studies to international accomplishments and goals. Some members shared pictures of their children, all shared cultural tidbits and fun facts, and everyone honestly enjoyed hearing about the lives of everyone else. They loved the multicultural experiences, and they loved hearing new ideas. They ran around NYC like kids on a playground, and they enjoyed their time together. Not a single person was restrained by a linguistic boundary, and if someone noticed that a certain language was more difficult for a member of the conversation, the language just switched to be more fitting for all participants. They loved being with other cultures, and they all had a great wanderlust. Everyone was equal, no matter their background. Everyone was another human that wanted to do good in the world. I honestly felt like I was in a larger version of LGS.
At the end of the conference, everyone was in tears and hugging each other as if they had known each other for years, when in reality is was four days. I've been keeping in contact with some friends I made there. A Nigerian girl living in Spain is now going to study abroad in Germany. A Tunisian just got an internship in Belgrade thanks to her English. A Pilipino is helping French-speaking ambassadors and tourists move around his home country while also trying to raise the standard of living and education there. Another student has been studying here in Washington and is now moving around to so many countries helping and working in healthcare that I don't think anyone nationality would be fitting, just a mélange of them all.
It's fantastic to know all of these people. They are making their marks on the world and trying their absolute best to make it a better place. I even heard a few of them using the line, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Working with and knowing people who make that much of an effort to change the world instead of just complaining is amazing, and I hope to put my own ripple in the world someday. It's one thing to study and talk about changing the world, but actually seeing it happen is something completely different, and it's given me that much more inspiration and hope.