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Youth UPF

Vienna Youth Forum: Experiencing Different Cultures

Vienna, Austria - Building on the April 12 forum on Exploring Global Citizenship, Youth UPF Austria in cooperation with AIESEC – the worldwide largest student organization – organized a workshop with the topic “Exchanging Experiences with Different Cultures” on June 2. Around 20 people of various ages participated, and a good and comfortable atmosphere was formed.

After a short introduction about UPF and AIESEC, Elisabeth Napetschnig led an icebreaker exercise called the "World Game." The participants represented the whole world population and their task was dividing themselves in 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 is 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 the paper on the back of another person what we think the answer to different questions is, for example, what type of music the person likes to listen to, with which famous person he/she would like to spend an evening with, etc. The aim was to show that we judge people how they look, how they dress, etc. but sometimes we judge wrongly. Therefore we need to understand that culture and values is something we learned through our parents, teachers, peers, etc. and for intercultural communication it’s important to look over 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 by Sakunika Wewalaarachchi, interns by AIESEC for the project “Colors of the World”. Emma lives in Canada, but she grew up in Japan and Germany as well. She talked about some key terms such as globalization, respect, understanding, and identity. She believes that putting yourself in a multicultural environment are keys for becoming a global citizen. The main points for her for a becoming a global citizen is: thirst of 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 we shouldn’t apply stereotype or prejudices about others, even when some of them are true.

Saku continued by saying that people have different values and beliefs and that will influence their thoughts about the world. She gave some examples about Singapore, as it is a country of many different cultures. Moreover, in her opinion a Global Citizen should respect diversity and shouldn’t judge about other cultures and need actual interaction with people to get to know a culture, “You can’t Google a culture”. Last but not least, she said that one needs passion and curiosity for the world and then integrate the experience in oneself otherwise we will lose them again.

A World Café discussion, led by Ewald Schenkermayr, addressed the following topics: Which skills and abilities are needed for a global citizen, the obstacles/pros and cons of a multicultural society, and if a global culture is possible, how to build it. Lots of ideas and opinions were collected and presented at the end. During the intercultural buffet and breaks it was possible to get to know each other better and to discuss even more about the topics.

The evening came to a close by cultural presentation about Canada, Tunisia by Houda Balti, Bosnia by Dženana Baščelija, and Singapore. Last but not least, a Japanese music piece was played by Harue Peham and Yoshiko Naguchi.

Though the interaction from the participants and the input of the lecturers, one can assume that everyone could gain something and understand their role as a citizen of this world. To sum it up it was enriching for everyone and a step forward and the goal is to plan similar events in the future.

To read about the April 12 Vienna Youth Forum, click here.

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