10 Lessons I Learned From YYGS

2018 SDSE
Ester from Brazil
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 a 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 student body. Also, I was feeling anxious because of the fact that I was going to spend my summer at my dream Ivy League school, that I perhaps would not be able to handle all the academics of the program, and that I would have a hard time during seminars and presentations due to not having enough background knowledge in the topics.
These were just some of the fears that were inside my head as I walked to my dorm for the first time, without knowing that 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 met people from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, China, and Turkey. 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. We came from such distinct cultural and social contexts, but still were able to form deep connections and share similar goals with each other.
All of the seminars and lectures were also very interesting and I was 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 that I did not get anxious and feel like I wasn't good enough. 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, as well as the instructors and YYGS staff who were always welcoming and comprehensive to everyone. 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 the experience you are living may be, that it is okay to feel scared sometimes, but this can not determine who you are 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 reflection 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 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 worst part because I never thought that I would get attached so quickly to such an amazing place with so many inspiring people who I unfortunately did not have enough time to get to know fully. Even though it was hard to realize that the program was over and I perhaps would not see a lot of those people again, I definitely came back home with a much more mature mindset regarding challenges and also feeling 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!
Lessons from YYGS
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 yourself.
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. 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 on a daily basis.
8. Everyone has something interesting about themselves or about their story to share with others.
9. 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.
10. Finally, be yourself! Everything will be okay at the end and you do not need to be someone else in order to succeed, so just enjoy this experience as much as you can and learn from it.

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