As many of you may know, this year I participated in a course about sustainable development and social entrepreneurship at the Yale Young Global Scholars program, which is an academic enrichment and leadership program that brings together outstanding high school students from all around the world to Yale’s campus in New Haven, United States. Therefore, I would like to talk a little bit more about how was that experience to me and also share some of the lessons I took from the program with you.
When I first arrived at YYGS, I was uncertain of many things. First, I did not know if I would be able to communicate properly with others since English is not my first language. Second, as an introvert and relatively shy person, I was afraid of not being able to connect with people since there would be so many different cultures, social backgrounds and academic knowledge represented in the YYGS students’ body. Also, I was feeling anxious by the fact that I was going to spend my summer at my dream ivy-league school and maybe I would not be able to handle all the academics of the program and have a hard time during seminars and presentations for not having enough background knowledge in the topics.
These were just some of the fears that were bumping inside my head as I walked to my dorm for the first time without knowing anything about how YYGS was going to become one of the most mind-opening experiences of my life.
During the first few days of the program, my fear of not making friendships soon started to disappear as I met my amazing YYGS family and many other Brazilian students who were always so friendly and shared numerous common interests with me even though they came from such diverse backgrounds. Throughout my time at YYGS, I have met people from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, China, and Turkey and it was the first time that I really understood how we can be so different from one another but also so equal at the same time by coming from such distinct cultural and social contexts but still being able to form deep connections and share similar goals with each other.
All of the seminars and lectures were also very interesting and I got amazed by the capacity of the students to argue and debate the topics, learn from each other, and actively participate in the teaching-learning process, which is very different from how it happens in the Brazilian educational system. However, by not being used to it, I am not going to lie and say that everything was perfect and I did not got anxious by the feeling of “maybe I am not good enough for this”, but even though I needed to make a lot of effort to keep up and understand the discussions, I could always rely on my friends to help me, besides of the instructors and YYGS staff who were always welcoming and comprehensive to everyone, and I think this was one of the most important parts of my personal growth during the program.
Through YYGS, I realized that it does not matter how challenging may be the experience you are living, it is okay to feel scared sometimes, but this can not determine you as a person and you must not let your fear define your actions. You may think that you are the only one feeling scared, but at the end you will understand that we are all in the same boat together trying to face our fears, raise our voices, and fight for what we believe. The YYGS speaker series also highlighted this reflexion by showing me that everyone has a history that is worth sharing, and everyone deserves to be heard.
At the end of YYGS, what I thought it was going to be just another strictly academic program turned out to become an unique worldwide cultural and social learning experience that helped me to understand more about who I am and who I want to be in the future. The departure day was definitely the worse part because I never thought that I would get attached so quickly to such an amazing place with so many inspiring people that unfortunately I did not have enough time to know all of their histories. Even though it was hard to realize that the program was over and maybe I would not see a lot of those people again, I definitely came back home with a much more mature mindset about challenges and also really inspired by every other student in YYGS.
When the program ended, I decided to make a list of lessons that I took from the experience and I decided to share it with you. Hope you enjoy!
1. No matter how difficult a challenge seems to be, if you persist, you can overcome it;
2. Setting priorities is extremely important not to overburden;
3. Finding a balance between academic and social activities is essential to achieve a happy life;
4. Motivation is a disciplinary matter;
5. Knowledge is not directly related to education and critical thinking;
6. Being afraid of others’ opinions and insecurity are feelings that can be overcome and should not stop you from doing what you like;
7. Doing your best is really important, but at the same time it is essential to think about your mental and psychological health;
8. Challenging the system and going against what you consider to be unfair is an extremely difficult activity, but it is one that needs to be practiced daily;
9. Everyone has something interesting about themselves or about their story to share with others;
10. Being able to argue well, think critically and understand the other’s point of view are essential skills for a person who wants to promote change in society;