PRAGUE – We all grow up reading our favorite children’s stories. From fairytales to riddles and rhymes, by the time you attend school, you are prepared to master how to read and write on your own.
Eventually, you grasp hold of your identity and enter into the world of defining your morals and values.
You now understand what your own story is and how to communicate your narrative to others.
Attending Youth Journalism International’s Global Conference in Prague encouraged each person to share who they are with various students from around the world.
This positioned us all to ask who exactly each person is in order to better connect with each other.
But communicating your personal tale required much contemplation.
I had never understood the power of making multi-continental connections until we were all meeting each other, face-to-face, for the first time at the conference.
At first, the introductions were clear: your name and where you are from. The first label of your identity was presented for each person to remember.
After a few days, that label turned into stories of your culture and home life. This part of your identity is no longer recited, but rather recalled with great joy and observation.
The global conference allowed us to connect with students very quickly. We purposely embraced each other but did not judge our differences. Rather, we questioned our cultural variances in order to enlighten ourselves.
Many of us accepted our naivete about the world while others tackled global issues head on.
Our personal stories of identity and culture equipped us to have conversations about the change we wanted to witness in our world.
Though our answers of future developments varied, we found uniformity in the drive towards global reform.
Each of our stories helped us to understand that we are not the only individuals fighting for change.
Our stories allowed us to feel less alone and restricted to our part of the world.
We felt guided and supported by each person at the global conference, soaking in their expertise of advice and personal experiences.
At left, YJI board member Arooj Khalid of Pakistan with Norah Springborn and the henna design that Khalid put on her hand. At right, an image of some of the many student hands that received henna. (YJI photos)
As our compassion between cultural strangers grew, each of us felt less alone. Our shared sense of empathy and knowledge equipped us to carry out the next future journeys in our lives.
Our stories encouraged our cultural mindset to adjust. The global conference diminished our prejudices and the media’s typecasts of cultural norms. We were all enlightened by stepping outside of our cultural identities in order to accept the strength of each other’s stories.
These stories further shaped and sharpened our global values and understanding. Different perspectives from diverse walks of life lessened the ability for one stereotyped story to prevail.
Now, it is up to us to use that knowledge of stories, identities, and community to foster our own sense of reform in our own parts of the world.
The most beautiful part is that the stories of the 2023 Global Conference in Prague will always stick with us.
Norah Springborn is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from the United States.