How International Exchange Programs Changed My Life
Traveling abroad is the dream of every individual. All my life, I had been thinking of traveling to other countries, connect with new people from different backgrounds, learn their languages and cultures and multiply my reach of vision but it wasn’t too late when I realized the absurdity of my expensive dreams because I wasn’t privileged enough to financially support my travel expenditures of my own.
"Dreams without capital are mere hallucination"
Belonging to a humble middle class family, I had struggled in my childhood but I never allowed my financial issues to present as an excuse for poor performance, always took full responsibility of everything I tried. It was my hard work and consistency that landed me in fourth best engineering university in Pakistan on full scholarship.
I’ve always been an inquisitive person, trying new things, taking initiatives and implementing new ideas. My undergraduate education played significant role in enhancing my personal and professional skills but, just like any other Pakistani, I was trained to be the victim of rat race.
Even though, I co-founded two startups and worked in an education based NGO but I always felt that I’m wasting the knowledge and skills I have, and the motives to bring change by being stuck in this race.
If you are an inquisitive person then believe me, a time will come when you’ll question your existence, hack your culture and break out of the slump!
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MY INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE JOURNEY
1. XJTU University Alliance, Silk Road Summer Camp, China, July, 2017
Every year, Xian Jiaotong University (XJTU) China, organizes Silk Road Summer Camp where they host students and faculty from international universities that come under Belt and Road Initiatives, for 10 days. I was lucky to be accepted among 6 other participants form my university to attend this summer camp.
It was partially funded as XJTU sponsored our lodging, accommodation and local transportation expenses and I had to bear both visa and flight cost which was quite an amount so I had to reconsider my decision. However, attending this program had significant importance in my life as it was my first international travel experience and I just wanted to do it!
With some personal savings and family support, I took flight and landed in Xian, one of the oldest and culturally rich city in Shaanxi province of China. Next day, I was networking with 70 participants that came from 20 different countries.
Throughout this educational exchange program, I learned about Chinese industrial revolution, their culture and language, and tried diverse Chinese cuisines; of course not all because Chinese people eat everything, I mean EVERYTHING!!
2. UMICamp Cultural Exchange Program, Indonesia, August, 2017
I came back from China as a changed person. This experience led me to apply in several other such programs. I was fortunate to be selected for Cultural Exchange Program organized by University of Negeri Malang, Indonesia, the very next month.
Dear, UMIcamp was indeed a roller coaster for me. Coming from a country where 99.9% of the whole population are Pakistanis, I had little knowledge of diversity and did not imagine what it is like to be in a room with people from all over the world, sharing their life stories, cultures, cuisines, languages, music and beyond.
After the program, I spent 4 nights at the most renowned, beautiful and heavenly island "BALI" to experience Scuba Diving
3. Youthopia International Conference, Pakistan, August, 2018
UMICamp experience indeed changed my perspectives about many things and the way I used to see this life. It was time to take an initiative since I had the confidence and the skills needed.
I worked with Monarch Enterprise for over a year to organize Pakistan’s first international youth conference “Youthopia” in Karachi in 2018.
People from 20+ countries came in Pakistan for the very first time to raise their voices about Peace, Freedom and Sustainable Development Goals and win their arguments and claims. We also invited 100+ Pakistanis from across the country to present their ideas, learn from multiple perspectives and share true Pakistani Culture with International participants.
Despite all the regulatory issues and limited financial resources, we did it. The conference ended with smiles, happiness, love and support!
4. Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS), Munich, September, 2019
See, this short writing will not give justice to GESS experience because I definitely need a separate article to explain how transformational GESS have been for me!
Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS) is being organized every year in four different cities including Querétaro (México), Cape Town (South Africa), Shanghai (China) and Munich (Germany).
For 10 days, we were like locked in a ship to find solution for contemporary problems, turn them into a business model and present it in front of a diverse community of students, professionals and investors.
Me, As a Changed Person
In past 3 years, my life has been completely changed as I have learnt what a colorful world we have the privilege to live in.
I traveled to 4 different countries, learned their languages and cultural values, made several great friends who are always ready to help me in any way possible, met with multiple Indians whose hospitality and kindness changed my perspectives about people from across the border and developed “WeShare” the very platform I’m writing on and where you can share your stories and help others.
I’m more confident than ever before in expressing myself. I’m an open minded person who accepts differences and treats others equally.
How International Exchange Programs Can Change Your Life
You will have the chance to expand your network with participants from different areas or countries, different background of interest, different students from various universities, and different business men and professionals from companies. It is expected to inspire you and connect you to many chances that will help you get closer to your dreams
You will have the chance to visit several universities and get firsthand information about their education system and ultimately get links in that specific university if you are looking for admission for higher education. Besides, your networks with international students will help you get information about scholarships or internships in many other countries.
You will have the chance to visit several companies and get firsthand information about their ecosystem and ultimately get links in that specific company if you are looking for jobs. Besides, your networks with professional and experts will help you get investment/crowd funding if you are planning to launch your entrepreneurial startup.
You will be given a chance to showcase your unique culture in front of other participants, which will be a really great opportunity to let others learn about your country better!
You as a future leader will get a chance to develop your leadership skills through multiple activities and seminars. Working in teams for common goals, these programs will help you find the leader in yourself.
Self-Confidence, Communication Skills:
These programs will boost your confidence as you'll be working out of your comfort zone. Besides, communciation skills will be highly improved as you'll be communicating with people from across the world in English language
No matter how depressed you are about the purpose of your life, these programs will help you reflect on your life, define new goals, align them with your previous experiences and skills, and do something to make them a success.
Peace and Harmony
Being among people from all around the world, you'll learn what local and global problems we all are facing and how we as a youth can come up together to find solutions for these problems, thereby, spreading the message of peaceful co-existence!