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Global citizenship and the skills to lead – what students learned at the Global Leadership Summit in Peru

Global citizenship and the skills to lead – what students learned at the Global Leadership Summit in Peru

Over Spring Break, from March 17 to 19, 40 EF Academy students traveled to Peru to attend EF’s Global Leadership Summit. This 2-day leadership conference centered on “global citizenship in a changing world” and invited participants to join a global movement and make a positive difference for generations to come by questioning and reflecting on the shifting role of global citizens, and what responsibilities they have as nations and cultures become more and more interconnected. Who better to take in all that the conference’s keynote speakers and workshops offered than EF Academy students, true global citizens and experts in the exchange of cultures?

The keynote speakers at the GLS included Dr. Derrick Gay, an international education consultant with 20 years of experience as a language teacher, musical director and senior administrator; Dr. Wade Davis, a Professor of Anthropology and BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia; and DeeDee Trotter, a three-time track and field Olympian with two gold medals in the 4x400m relay and a bronze medal in the 400m sprint.

In addition to hearing from keynote speakers, the students also attended workshops about leadership and global citizenship. A testament to the many facets of culture and globalization, the students all left the workshops having learned different things.

“I attended all the workshops I had time for and the most interesting thing I learned was when we were building our own city with cardboard, because so many different people had different views on what the perfect city would look like. It was very fun and eye-opening,” said Matilda Johnsen, a Norwegian student attending EF Academy New York.

“I attended the conversation with Dr. Davis and a workshop in the levels of culture. The most interesting thing I learned was that there are certain ‘levels’ to culture that can be found anywhere,” Gnebe-Awa Diouf, an IB student at EF Academy Oxford, said.

“I attended both workshops held by the African Leadership Academy. During their workshops, I learned that as a leader, it is important to adapt to the group’s values and abilities,” Iulia Bock, a Romanian IB student at EF Academy Oxford, said.

The setting of the summit, in Peru’s capital, Lima, was an ideal location for the summit and students were captivated by the culture, traditions and way of life they discovered in the South American country. An unfortunate natural disaster occurred during the summit and the students witnessed first-hand the detrimental affects the torrential flooding had on the country and the people living there.

In an article written for the Huffington Post, EF Academy New York student Maya Nylund wrote, “Lima has always been a desert city, and these recent climatic changes have the potential to do serious damage to Huaca Pucllana and significant heritage sites like it. This flooding has global causes, reflected in larger global symptoms, that touch upon all of the primary societal pillars: economy, environment, technology and culture.”

Opening their eyes to the other challenges that face culture and traditions as the world becomes more globalized, the group work and innovation village helped students learn the “design thinking” process as they created solutions to problems presented in various case studies.

“The main experience I gained from the GLS is the ability to use design thinking as a new methodology for coming about new solutions to user-based problems,” said Eugene Tan, an EF Academy Torbay student from Malaysia. “It has also further enlightened me toward many aspects of life, such as the alleged more developed nations’ unconscious bias towards the alleged lesser developed nations and their citizens’ way of life.”

Though the design thinking experience was one of Eugene’s main take-aways from the summit, it wasn’t all he brought home.

“The conference showed me a different side to the world both literally and figuratively. Looking back, I feel lucky to have been part of such an amazing experience, especially as part of my design thinking group – we got so close in just a span of a few days,” he said.

Gnebe-Awa was interested in discovering a new part of the world and immediately connected with the theme of the summit when she first heard about the GLS. Her experience at the summit in Peru made a lasting impact on her life – not only did she fall in love with the country, but she also changed her mind about her plans for the future.

“I knew that I wanted to study psychology, but I had somewhat given up on my writing as a main source of income. After the conference, I decided to really look into a career as a writer,” she said.

As young adults who have opened their minds by coming to EF Academy, the conference was an opportunity to see something new, make friends and put that open mind to good use by exploring how they can use their global citizenship to make changes in their communities and home countries, and the lives of people around them.

“I felt like I was part of a movement or community that aimed to create a better, more comprehensive world for ourselves and the generations to come,” Gnebe-Awa explained.

In July, EF will host another GLS, this time in Milan, Italy. The theme of this summit will be “the future of food,” and summit-goers will gain valuable insight into how food connects plates, people, politics and culture.

“I think the best advice I can give students attending summits in the future is to be present in the moment,” Eugene said. “They are incredible and they pass very quickly. Don’t let problems or worries from home follow you and steal your experience. Stay rooted in the moment and realize all the amazing things happening around you.”

As Eugene says, “We are linked in one way or another in an intricate web made sophisticated by everything we do in life.” The Global Leadership Summit in Peru allowed students (and educators) to learn how to use their global citizenship to serve as influential leaders, it also helped them realize their connection to the world, their place in it and that however small they may be in the grand scheme of things, they are big enough to make a lasting positive impact on the places and people with which they interact.