Lessons From the United Nations Dialogue of Civilizations

Story by Chelsea Lauder

It is amazing what one can learn from simply listening and questioning. Experiencing an international conference on today’s top security issues, listening to your Professor speak at a Conference on Disarmament forum, and having in depth conversations with the men and women who are actively writing treaties to change the world are only tidbits of a typical day on the United Nations Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland. This Dialogue of Civilizations is unlike many others in that it provides inside access to the world’s epicenter for peace and diplomacy, while still allowing its students to ask questions, discover new ideas, and research personal interests. Nothing about this experience could be defined as “easy.” It was, however, thought provoking, in-depth, and included a busy schedule and heavy workload.

The professional caliber of this dialogue, is both eye opening and challenging. Many of the students had been on co-op before or had already gone on different dialogues, and yet, during our conversations we often spoke about the challenges and benefits of what we had been experiencing. For me, the challenge came in searching for the right words and the right questions. I was just a freshman, I barely knew how to get myself up for class, let only traverse the professional waters of the United Nations. The best part about this all, however, was being able to prop myself up against the other students who were feeling the same and together, we could search for our place and our interests.

One year later and I am still actively using the knowledge and experience I gained from that month in Switzerland. Whether I speak up about human rights in class, or have a discussion about international law with a fellow classmate, I am constantly reminded of what I was able to learn and discover while I challenged myself in a new place. Going someplace new and studying something different and exciting is an experience everyone should have. What does this mean? It means, push yourself – allow your mind to open and expand; don’t limit yourself to what you already know; and explore the possibilities that await you.