Traveling is a powerful experience that leads to profound perspective shifts, meaningful relationship building across differences and life introspection — at least, it had for me.
But the reality is that traveling is not an equal access activity. Often, only the privileged or the few that are fortunate to be supported through financial sponsorship are able to make the journey out of their country. I am lucky that I had the ability to take out a loan to study abroad, and I am incredibly fortunate to work for an organization that gives me the opportunity to travel to places like Kosovo. Others, unfortunately, don’t have this luxury.
Although access isn’t the only reason a dismal 1 percent of American university students participate in study abroad programs, understanding the concept of access to travel does shed light on an important issue: the skills and knowledge that youth gain from international travel experiences are not equal access on a global scale.
One World Youth Project (OWYP) tackles this problem head on. OWYP trains a team of exceptional university students to facilitate and mentor local classrooms in their community using a flexible “global competence” curriculum, enabling youth to connect, collaborate and co-create with other youth abroad via technology. University students become leaders to local 10-14 year olds, opening up doors to the 21st century world and simulating the experience of international travel.
We recognize that our organization alone is not the answer to the world’s problems, but we hope we can plant the seeds and empower as many young budding leaders around the world that we possibly can. We realize that solving our world’s problems will take a critical mass — even generations — of organizations, artists, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, educators, organizers, writers, innovators and global leaders collaborating together in the spirit of social and environmental change.
A week after the completion of our Summer Training Conference, I attended an event awarding outstanding Kosovar students with scholarships. The event was hosted in Pristina by the foundation leg of IPKO, one of the country’s major telecommunication companies.
The students I met were an inspiring bunch; many of them had not yet celebrated their 20th birthday but they were already pioneering innovative initiatives, including writing books, coding programs to teach Java to high school students or leading their own community outreach programs. I exchanged stories and shared laughs with this exceptional group and I was so engrossed that by the end of the night I enthusiastically clinked glasses with every young person I met and shouted, “Gazuer!” (Albanian for “Cheers!”)
I realized, just then, that Kosovo was the perfect country to host our training.
Photo credit: One World Youth Project. Members of the One World Youth Project Summer Training Conference in Kosovo.
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