The Words of the Peham Family

Youth in Vienna Explore Global Citizenship

Harue Peham
April 12, 2012

Vienna, Austria -- Following the successful international youth conference during the UN International Year of Youth last July on "Communicating Change: Youth Perspectives on Peace," the Youth-UPF Austria organized a panel discussion with the title "Exploring Global Citizenship" on April 12. Around 40 people were welcomed to the event by Marlies Haider, who is coordinating Youth-UPF activities in Vienna.

Four young "Global Citizens" who came from very different cultural backgrounds shared their experiences and perspectives on this topic. The first speaker, Segal Hussein, part of the START-Alumni committee and student of International development and political science, started with sharing about her intercultural experiences growing up with the Somalian culture of her parents and having lived in Austria since she was two years old. This aroused the questions of what is "homeland" and which skills are important for a "global citizen"? The responsibilities as an ambassador between people was part of the definition.

The second speaker, Mag. Florian Schirg, a Ph.D. student at the Vienna University of Economic Studies working in its Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was able gain access to the "world stage" through lots of experiences, which he could make through internships in various countries, a semester abroad, his compulsory social-service year spent in a hospital in Cameroon. Brazil, France, and South India were just some other stops on his travels. He mentioned that he could witness an open and appreciative attitude through adapting to different cultures and the lifestyles of the people there.

Claire Laurent, the third speaker works at the International Organization of Migration and originates from an international family. In addition to having lived in France and Austria, she spent several years in Africa. She talked about her experience of not feeling completely at home anywhere and how important it is to learn from different people. To be open to differences is the foundation to meet another person without preconceptions.

The fourth speaker, Patricia Smolean, who has Romanian-Hungarian roots, is one of the team leaders of the worldwide student organization AIESEC and is responsible for the project "Colours of the World," which promotes tolerance for students. She highlighted that to think "outside of the box" and humaneness are prerequisites to encountering people without prejudices.

At the end, D. Zoehrer, the moderator of the panel discussion, addressed the speakers with the question of which skills, knowledge, and values are necessary to be a "Global Citizen." Besides empathy and tolerance, the predominant points were open communication, a selfless attitude, and thinking about other people. Through the comments and questions from the audience afterwards, one can assume that the personal experiences and assumptions of the individual panel speakers made the audience reflect about each person's role as a citizen of this world. The evening came to a close with everybody enjoying an international buffet while sharing their thoughts and opinions with each other.

Since the Youth UPF is planning a European youth conference on the topic "Exploring Global Citizenship" at the end of this year probably in Malta, this event was a good step forward and a good foundation for further activities. 

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