During the holidays, I attended a 10 day Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC and New York City. I spent 240 hours with 250 ambitious, driven and determined individuals who once finishing the conference would become some of my greatest friends.
The first six days in Washington were preparation for a simulated security council and the final four days in NYC were preparation for a three-hour global summit in the actual UN building that took place on our last day. In-between this preparation, we visited the White House, Times Square, stayed at Manhattan College and had the opportunity to attend a farewell cruise on the Hudson River.
Yes, we all walked away with new knowledge about the UN and the world but it was so much more than that. It was becoming so close with likeminded strangers, living independently for 10 days on the other side of the world, fully understanding other problems in our world and how we as youth will be the ones solving them. For 10 days, I sat in the same room as a boy from Iraq whose female siblings were not worthy enough to attend the program. Growing up in a society that idolises these morals, he simply knew no better. For those same 10 days, I also sat with a boy who when returning to his home of South Korea, was obligated to fight in the war against North Korea. And for those same 10 days I sat in the same room as a 16-year-old girl from North Dakota, who runs and operates her own clothing company.
Upon attending this leadership conference, I learnt a very important lesson about leadership; one that the conference content didn’t teach. It was a lesson I learned by being in the real world with real people. Number one, being a leader does not mean you have to be a president. Simply, knowing when to step back and just do the work is so important, being silent is so very powerful. And two, being a leader does not mean wearing your achievements on your sleeve. In the real-world people don’t care about how many badges you wear but rather, the person wearing them and whether that person can make a certain situation easier and more enjoyable.
Although we did a UN simulation, the entire conference was a real-life simulation. We were referred to as scholars and were led by advisors. That term advisors displaying the importance of independence that the conference aimed to achieve. Yes, some of the 13-hour days were long and tough but they were rewarding. We spent copious 13 hour days in one room discussing countries involved in the UN as well as learning about the cultures and experiences of all us global scholars.
And so I ask, should you ever get the opportunity to challenge yourself, just say yes. It may seem confronting but doing something that challenges you is what will open your eyes to the world and help you grow as a person. This was by far the best opportunity I have ever been given and for that I am extremely grateful.
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