Summer Academy on Sustainability from an Intercultural Perspective

I am a returnee from AFS Intensive Program (Italy 2012/2013). After returning from the program, I was fortunate enough to receive a partial scholarship to Istanbul, Turkey for the summer academy. The topic for this year’s academy is Sustainability from an Intercultural Perspective. A city where East meets West, Istanbul is the hub for cultural diversity. With its growing economy and population, it is also a major city in global energy consumption. Thus, we, the participants from 5 continents and 15 different countries gathered here to learn and discuss about the current and future state of energy sources.

I was initially overwhelmed by the diversity of our group and the knowledge they possessed, but it was at the same time one of the most amazing experience in my life. The participants were of varying ages and disciplines, most of them were intrinsically travellers, “child of the world”, as they called themselves. The biggest perk of being the youngest and least experienced is that I was able to grow and learn so much from their stories.

I would like to sum up what I have learnt from the lectures with two questions: What is Sustainability? And why should we care about Sustainability? The answer that most of us have agreed upon for the first question is, sustainability is an equilibrium between economic, social and environmental development. To live in a sustainable society, we need to have secure energy supplies that do not damage the environment and the interests of the people. The answer to the latter question is much more tricky, but I think it is important, especially for us exchange students who have experienced the beauty of another culture. A few countries are currently supplying the whole world with energy. In other words, we are sharing energy supplies with others, being unsustainable means to consume more than we need and potentially deplete the supplies from other countries, thus harming the people living within. How can we do that, when we now have loved ones all over the world? I couldn’t think of a better answer to convince AFSers’ to be sustainable.

I would also like to mention the intercultural workshops held every day after the morning lectures. I really enjoyed the informal setting of the learning environment, which was so unlike the conventional teaching method that creates a distance between teacher and learner. We were allowed to set our own rules, provide feedbacks and reflect. I learnt so much about intercultural communication and the many phases of adapting into a culture. In summary, it was an enriching experience, one that I would remember for the rest of my life.

My exchanges to Italy and Turkey have helped me discover what I want to do and where I want to go in life. It is amazing to realize how these experiences can have such profound impacts on you. The Summer Academy in Turkey is my first participation as an 18+, and it was a wonderful start to adulthood. Thank you to the many partner universities that sponsor the program, especially Istanbul Kultur University for hosting us and of course to AFS, for opening up new doors and changing lives.

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