By Huma Akbar
The morning of 23rd June 2012 was really very special for me. That was a day full of excitement and in fact the happiest day of my life.
I was given the E-passport, visa and other necessary documents and stuffs in Islamabad during pre-departure orientation program for the four weeks summer camp to US, of ‘Benjamin Franklin Summer Institute’ for South and Central Asia. I was one Chitrali among many participants fromPakistan, selected for this program. I was very excited because my dream to visit US was about to come true. Anyhow finally I was with the other fellow students left for theUSand after 18 hours of air journey reachedWashingtonAirport. Since i entered US I was looking forward for having a good time there and found it really different in every aspect fromPakistan.
At first we were in the School for ‘conflict analysis and resolution, atGeorge Mason UniversityVirginia. The participants of the program were from six different countries with diverse cultures, speaking different languages and professing different religions. The diversity was great therefore, seemed so colorful. Talking to the students and telling about oneself and asking for their introduction and country was a fun and learning opportunity. The mentors of the programme were also really nice, caring and cheering. Actually this program was focused on five themes, were: 1. Culture, conflict and cooperation. 2. Democracy and Governance. 3. International Relation and Diplomacy 4. Sustainable Development 5. Mass Communication and Media.
Each theme was planned for one week and the methodology applied were discussions, presentations, videos sharing and debates on topics. The teaching method employed there was really interesting because where different Scholars took classes and provided us the opportunity to ask questions whatever came in our mind regarding the topics of discussion. I was able to get a vast knowledge through these classes regarding politics, leadership, diplomacy, cultural diversity, environmental sustainability, conflict analysis and resolution, religions, media, peace building and many more.
This program also provided me a great chance to explore theUSthrough field trips. We were given chance to visit White House, Capitol Hill, State Department and the historical and cultural sites in Washington DC. The visit ofPhiladelphiawas amazing because I found it a historical city. After visiting United States National Constitution Centre, Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall I came across the history of US and the contributions of their founding fathers. Our visit to the New York City was also awesome because of its diverse, busy and colorful city with full of life where I really enjoyed Boat Tour to the statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire state building and Time Square.
Our Visit to United Nation Office and The World Trade Centre were very informative and a unique experience. We were also provided opportunity to visit Security Council and General Assembly of UN and also the museum and all the surrounding of World Trade Centre where I learnt a lot about these places and their importance.
The cultural days, community services and Independence Day of US were not as enthusiastic for us as were the other events.
A visit to certain religious institutions including Mosque, Cathedral andTemplewas also the part of this programme. The purpose of these visits was to let the students observe the diversity in religion and know about different beliefs and respect others religion.
Staying with an American host family for ten days was a fabulous experience and very nice due to their care. The purpose of this host stay was to let the students observe American life style and observe the diversity in cultures and way of living.
Through this wonderful program not only do i interact with different peoples and but also learn to differentiate between stereotypes and reality in different societies and cultures.
The four weeks with the BFSI was an unforgettable moments of my life. I learnt a lot and made so many positive changes in myself as a learner when I was back to my country. It was a great time for me in company with great people.
The very purpose of sharing my experience is that this world has diverse colour and diversity and the best way forward is to respect and accept each other’s culture, values, customs and beliefs not as threat for one another but the jewels in the world crown for learning community to promote tolerance, harmony and the culture of peaceful co-existence. Diversity is not an obstacle in the way of learning therefore, learn and contribute for humanity generally and our country particularly.
The writer is a student of F.A. Part II atGovernmentFrontierCollegefor Women, Peshawar.