ISTANBUL – While growing up, I took it upon myself to learn and immerse myself in other cultures, but there is only so much you can do on your own.
According to Welsh Government statistics in December 2021, my county – Bridgend – had a 1.9% population of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Of course, this doesn’t include those from backgrounds and cultures which don’t fit into either white British or Black, Asian or minority ethnic, but it’s still a good indication that I didn’t grow up in a very diverse area.
To fully understand and empathize with different cultures, you need to spend time with them and talk to people.
I did just that at the Youth Journalism International Global Conference in Istanbul this summer.
People from Türkiye, the United States, Ukraine, Sweden, Iran, Pakistan, UK, Colombia, Mexico and Cyprus all gathered with the common ground of YJI. We were there to explore a new, beautiful city and to write and produce more stories together, but we achieved a lot more than just that.
From sharing traditional dances, foods, languages and games from our unique cultures and backgrounds, I learned a lot about myself and the world around me.
Meeting people from all over the world is a really special and eye-opening experience.
I’m fortunate to live in a country where I am largely free to dress how I wish, go where I want, be who I am and not feel threatened. But that isn’t the case for everyone.
From hearing stories of the war in Ukraine, the struggles of living in Iran and girls’ education and social expectations in Pakistan, I appreciated and understood, for the first time, my privilege as a heterosexual, white woman living in the UK.
It makes me sad that this is the first time I have properly encountered and learned about different cultures, but I am extremely grateful to now have a group of friends across the entire world with whom I can laugh, dance, appreciate and have fun.
I am proud to know them and their stories.
I definitely underestimated the power and value of interacting and learning other cultures. We have a rich and diverse universe, and this experience has made me eager to learn more.
We may have different backgrounds, languages, cultures, experiences and religions, but we all live on the same beautiful Earth and that is the only thing we need to have in common.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Wales. She wrote this article.
Parnian Shahsavary is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Iran. She contributed the photo below.