On July 3-23, 2015, five Norwegian youth traveled to Berlin to take part in the Global-In Fellowship (GIF) summer program. GIF is developed by young alumni from the U.S. State Department Ben Franklin summer program and aims to provide its participants with an opportunity to develop a commitment to international cooperation and to enhance diplomatic as well as leadership skills. This year it brought together 60 students from 12 different countries.
One of the Norwegian participants, Tor Stein-Andersen (18), an alumnus of the Young Ambassadors program, has written a report from his three weeks in Berlin:
“I have recently returned from participating in the Global in Fellowship (GIF) program as a member of the Norwegian delegation. This three week program was located in Berlin, Germany. It brought together 60 students from 12 different countries with a focus on international issues and relations, politics and diplomacy. The program was sponsored in part by the U.S. Embassy in Oslo.
We were required to research and learn background information prior our departure. I had to learn and understand about the Mediterranean migrant crises, the Iran Nuclear deal, the Ukraine crisis and of course climate change issues
Once in Germany I was introduced to the other participants. My initial anxiety quickly evaporated as I began to interact with so many interesting and talented other young people. From the start we became deeply involved in speaking about our cultural differences, the contrasting politics from one nation to another, but also sharing simple thoughts such as what we liked to do in our spare time. Those who were complete strangers just a few hours earlier, quickly felt like old friends. It is amazing how young people from different backgrounds naturally seek out their common grounds.
The program was composed of three unique weeks, each covering different topics.
We were involved in a cultural program on the arrival weekend. This introduction was followed by a workshop-week. Four workshops were held based on the following topics: politics, economics, media and law. Although the key speakers for each topic were interesting, I felt that I got even more out of the ensuing discussions with the other participants. What impressed me the most during this first week was the range of different opinions and the exposure to those from nations where they do not have the same freedoms as we have in Norway. The freedom to organize politically and the freedom to criticize the government are basic rights that we should not take for granted.
During the second week we participated in a Model United Nations (MUN) conference. I was fortunate enough to play the role of the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council. We attempted to cooperate to create and draft solutions for actual, real-world problems. We were allowed to work all hours of the clock and we were provided incredible guidance from mentors who were always there to help. I began to appreciate that diplomats are confronted with hard, challenging work that requires extensive effort and self-control but that this work can also be very rewarding.
Our experience in international collaboration and cooperation was shaken by a visit to the concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. The indescribable horrors of that camp and the weakness of humanity that it represents simply underlined the importance of international communications and collaboration. This visit left the strongest impact and was by far the most moving and memorable part of the program. Even now, several weeks after the trip, I am struggling with the horrors to which we were so mildly exposed. It is terrifying to look into this past and yet see its reflections in so many present day situations. This experience simply strengthens my resolve to help our global community to prevent new genocides and terrors.
The third and last week was interesting and tested our ability to cooperate and use the skills we had begun to develop. We were divided into three groups, each group representing a different country for which we tasked with writing a constitution. In this simulation we were each assigned character roles that had to come together to write a constitution – but at the same time having to compete/deal in crisis situations including climate change, refugee – migrant, hunger and terrorism. We had to think in new and creative ways to keep our citizens happy yet fulfill the representative roles we had been assigned.
As the program neared conclusion, it became obvious to most of us that notwithstanding our political differences, our long our hours of discussions and teamwork had built bridges and lasting bonds to one another. What a marvelous experience! I have enjoyed every single second of the program. It has provided me with knowledge and perspective – building an open-minded and diplomatic approach to dealing with others that come from different cultures with different values. It has made me grow as a human being and allowed me to appreciate the importance of cooperation that must extend beyond borders. But above all, Global in Fellowship has given me lifelong friends who I know I will enjoy and work with in the future. This was a uniquely rich experience creating bonds with mentors, organizers and participants – people to whom one does not say “Goodbye” but rather “looking forward to seeing you soon”.