The Words of the Haider Family

Youth Workshop in Vienna on Exploring Global Citizenship

Marlies Haider
June 2, 2012
UPF -- Austria

Vienna, Austria -- After the first panel discussion on Exploring Global Citizenship, the youth of UPF-Austria in cooperation with AIESEC – the largest student organization in the world, organized a Youth Workshop with the topic "Exchanging Experiences with People of Different Cultures" on June 2. Approximately 20 youth participated in the workshop, and a comfortable atmosphere could be formed.

In the beginning, there were short introductions about UPF and AIESEC to enable people to understand something about the key values of the organizations. This was followed by an ice breaker, the "World Game" led by Elisabeth Napetschnig. The participants represented the whole world population and their task was to divide themselves according the different continents, for example how the population is divided, as well as the wealth and energy consumption.

Next, Stefan Ossman, who studied international development and has been involved in the "buddy" project since 2006, a project to help students who come from abroad to study in Austria, gave the first interactive input. The task was to write on a piece of paper fastened to the back of another person what type of music the person might like listen to, which famous person he or she would like to spend an evening with, etc. The aim was to show that people tend to judge others according to how they look, how they dress, etc., but sometimes that leads to wrong conclusions. Since culture and values are learned through parents, teachers, peers, etc., for intercultural communication it's important to see beyond those boundaries. On the other hand he mentioned, "It's possible to take an Austrian out of Austria but it's impossible to take Austria out of an Austrian."

The second lecture on the topic "Becoming a Global Citizen" was given by Emma Sawatzky and Sakunika Wewalaarachchi, interns with AIESEC for the project "Colors of the World." Emma lives in Canada but she grew up in Japan and Germany. She talked about some key terms such as globalization, respect, understanding, identity, and beliefs as well as putting yourself in a multicultural environment as keys for being a global citizen. For her, the keys to becoming a global citizen are thirst for knowledge, understanding the importance of socialization, and an active desire to make a positive impact on society. Another point she mentioned was, "Don't judge the book by its cover," as well as cautioning people not to hold stereotypes or prejudices about others, even when some of them are true.

Saku continued by saying that people have different values and beliefs which influence the way they think about the world. She gave some examples about Singapore, which is a country of many different cultures. Moreover, in her opinion, a global citizen should respect diversity and shouldn't make judgments about other cultures; instead, one needs actual interaction with people to get to know their culture; in other words, "You can't Google a culture." Last but not least, she said that one needs passion and curiosity about the world and then ways to integrate the new experience; otherwise, they will be lost.

The program continued with a World Café discussion, led by Ewald Schenkermayr, with the following topics:

Which skills and abilities are needed for a global citizen?
What are the obstacles as well as the pros and cons of a multicultural society?
Is a global culture possible?
If so, how can it be built?

Lots of ideas and opinions were collected and presented at the end of the workshop. During the intercultural buffet and breaks it was possible to get to know each other better and discuss even more about the topics.

The evening came to a close with cultural presentations about Canada, Tunisia, Bosnia, and Singapore. Last but not least, a Japanese musical piece was played by Harue Peham and Yoshiko Naguchi.

Through the interactions among the participants and the input of the lecturers, one can assume that everyone gained something through this workshop which expanded their understanding of their role as a citizen of this world. To sum it up, it was enriching for everyone and a step forward. The goal is to develop further events like this. 

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