"Even though our passions differed, everyone projected energy as a global citizen in terms of recognizing the interrelationships that each issue and challenge posed."

2017 SDSE
Clarisa from Connecticut, USA

I had decided during my YYGS session to wait and write my blog post after some time had passed in order to have an adequate reflection period. I had hoped to share a singular take-away lesson, be it a reminder (always wear your lanyard!) or something much more lasting, such as new research skills. As I reviewed prior drafts, I noted that I kept circulating back to memories from our first day. This was the time we were especially grateful for those always-forgotten lanyards with their trusty name tag pockets.

Sitting outside in the Saybrook courtyard that first Monday afternoon, we were prompted to introduce ourselves. The multitude of experiences represented by the participants were incredible. Every story was fascinating, revealing the lifestyles and cultures of young people around the word. However, when we shared our unique perspectives what struck me most was how interconnected we all were. I have never visited the Democratic Republic of Congo or studied Chinese, but our stories all contained a common goal: the desire to make positive change in our world. For some, that meant preserving the local flora and fauna of their backyards while others were intent on saving polar bears thousands of miles away. Even though our passions differed, everyone projected energy as a global citizen in terms of recognizing the interrelationships that each issue and challenge posed. In light of these shared core values, we were more alike than different from each other.

This theme of commonality would later continue in SDSE’s subject matter: “sustainable development and social entrepreneurship.” As groups debated solutions to issues in discussion sections or capstone project groups, we discovered the interconnectedness of many topics. For instance, we cannot solve income inequality without regard to gender equality. Likewise, education for all is virtually impossible without accessibility to clean water. There is no viable way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions without considering effects on plant and animal biodiversity.

The world’s problems are daunting, so how were approximately two hundred and forty students from across the globe about to tackle some of the most difficult and interwoven contemporary issues world leaders struggle with today? The answer emerged as we navigated compelling seminars where we were forced to consider our own experiences together with other perspectives. This meant occasionally leaving our personal opinions at the door or altering initial perceptions. Sometimes we were guided towards this outside-the-box thinking; other times our informal, outside-the-classroom debates proved most significant. Often, this occurred amidst plates of pasta and cookies at the dining hall, where our conversations ranged from current political affairs and the state of climate change to our different tastes in music.

YYGS teaches you to appreciate and value the respective differences among those around you from the first greetings, be it “hello” or “bonjour.” The program instills a burning curiosity to learn about the culture of your suitemate or to share personal anecdotes with someone sitting next to you in lecture. Your life story includes more than the hometown written on that trusty name tag or the school you attend. You listen to the personal histories woven together, ranging from academic passions to crazy tales from your Yale Saybrook entryway and your favorite Hopper dining hall foods. Whether you leave with a new project idea or five new friends from around the world, from the first day SDSE inspired us all to find the hidden similarities in our stories and celebrate them. We may not have all the answers yet to all the world’s problems, but we have identified that the most meaningful way to effect positive change is through a relentless pursuit of knowledge, a sense of purpose, respectful integration of community stakeholders, and open-minded collaboration. In time, this path may very well lead to YYGS class participants crafting creative solutions to issues; in the short run, we know that we benefited from those very same skills applied to such pressing matters as locating the best pizza or finding that ever missing lanyard. YYGS was an incredible experience, and one that I truly feel made me realize what being a responsible global citizen entails.

Popular Posts