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An Unforgettable Summer Of 2010

October, 2010
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The United States of America, land of Hollywood and rock and roll - that was where we went this summer.
This summer, for the first time in our lives, we were travelling without adults on a 14-hour plane ride to the Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC). The two of us, Yu-Ann and Monique, good friends in BISS and now on an exciting trip together - it was definitely a summer of many firsts.
gylc-2sGYLC offers students from countries all over the world the opportunity to interact with each other and explore global leadership issues. The theme of the program is The Leaders of Tomorrow Preparing for the Global Challenges and Responsibilities of the Future.
To say that it was an eye opening experience for the two of us would be an understatement. Besides opening our eyes to the billions of possibilities that this world holds, we also learnt about the power of the human mind, the enduring magnificence of different cultures and societies and most importantly, discovered the beauty of friendships.
While this was an exponentially fun experience, it was an enriching and learning one too. Some fun facts we found out was that people in South Africa do not actually keep lions as pets, and sandwiches were referred to as “submarines” or “subs” in the United States. It was interesting how urban legends can morph into popular culture!
The conference was held in the State that is the seat of politics in USA - Washington D.C. and the Big Apple – New York. Together with more than 300 students from international schools all over the world, we heard and talked about diverse issues happening in the world and facing our generation today.  On each day of the conference we were presented with a new topic or issue to focus on and complementing this, we attended lectures and speeches given by some of the most inspiring of people we have ever heard from. One of the speakers was Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old teenage from California who attempted to sail solo on a voyage around the world.  Her goal was to be recognized as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone. Her experience of the journey touched many of us and encouraged us to take the first step out of our comfort zones and attempt our dreams. She dared us to believe that as individuals, we can achieve anything we want. We just needed the passion and determination.
There were also many sessions of group discussions over global issues, brainstorming for ideas and suggestions on how to make a difference to some of the problems we hear and read about in various parts of the world. We talked about world issues - corruption, global warming, hunger, starvation and other topics in between. We also debated over genetically modified food, who should take control of the Arctic and how to resolve the problem of hunger in some parts of the world. We hoped that we can make a difference, one step at a time.
Some days of the Conference were packed from 7 am to 9 pm with presentations, workshops and group discussions. Thankfully, it was not just work, work and more work! We visited the museums and historic monuments in Washington while in New York, we went on field trips to places like the World Bank, the State Department (to be in the same building as Hilary Clinton!), the UN building (to be in the same building as Ban Ki Moon!), and scenic trips down the Hudson River.
gylc-1sThe other things that were tremendously exciting for us were the shopping malls and food. For teenagers like us who were fed on a diet of American TV programs, many things around us were familiar, yet unfamiliar. We had an overwhelming urge to sample every brand and type of food we recognized from the TV shows.
Even with so much to see and do, there were still more exciting things to come. There were new people to meet and new friends to make. The evenings after the day sessions were spent getting to know our fellow participants and growing new friendships. The Talent Night segment of the program allowed us to be silly and drop our reserve while the game nights revealed all our latent competitiveness!
We thank our parents for giving us the opportunity to go on this trip and trusting us to take care of ourselves. The knowledge we gained, the friends we made, the laughter and fun we had over World Cup replay matches and the walks through the streets of this interesting country - this was an experience that we will never forget in this summer of 2010. 
By Monique Brown, Yu Ann Tan,
Grade 12 seniors at Beijing BISS International School


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