Read the 2nd prize winning essay for the ILAC International Essay Contest on “How International Education Can Contribute to World Peace.” Iryna Hryvenko from Ukraine will receive $25,000 CAD to continue her studies at a Canadian university or college of her choice.
As long as mankind has existed and as long wars have lasted. The world has already gone through two terrible world wars the last being World War II which claimed about 60 million lives; humanity has seen the horrors of the atomic bomb from the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki [11, 12]. But unfortunately even today in many parts of our beautiful world human blood is shed for no reason whatsoever. A few examples that easily come to mind would be the massacres in Libya, the ongoing armed conflict in Syria and the latest being Israel and Palestine‘s rising tensions which had multiple nations intervening to prevent war; all of these happening simultaneously and who’s victims consist of innocent families, women, children and even the elderly are primarily effected.
One of the most common causes of armed conflicts has been religious animosity. The crusade of Muslims against Jews, the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (Ulster), and the Iran-Iraq war (Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims) . Despite the numerous efforts of international diplomacy and the United Nations, such as The Camp David Accords which was signed into effect by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181[8,9] or The Nobel Peace Prize of 1994 , many of these conflicts do not stop, but only grow silently behind closed doors (the events in Syria and Israel/Gaza) , and some are permanent in nature (like the majority of the Middle East).
It would be apparent that a well-rounded international education can contribute to the solution for peace especially considering how the current diplomats can’t resolve the issues without conflict. “Education is the key to uniting nations, bringing human beings closely together…Education is a key tool in combating poverty, in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, democracy, cultural diversity and environmental awareness. Education for peace implies an active concept of peace through values, life skills and knowledge in a spirit of equality, respect, empathy, understanding and mutual appreciation among individuals, groups and nations”  . Today the younger generation is amounting to more than a quarter of the total labor force, and is becoming increasingly important in all aspects of society and areas of social life. Students in particular have always been the most active part of any society; it is the student protests in the United States that played a vital role in ending the war in Vietnam .
Education International Resolution on Education for Peace of 2004 “pledged to promote education for peace and intercultural learning as the best antidote to racist and fundamentalist phenomena in order to prevent social conflict and the recourse to social violence”. Obviously, the educational aspect of promoting peace concerns “the content of education and training, educational resources and material, school and university life, initial and ongoing training for teachers, research, and ongoing training for young people and adults”. However, according to Education International – the world’s largest union federation of over 30 million teachers and education employees, consisting of 401 member organizations in 172 countries  – “the skills for peace and non-violence can only be learned and perfected through practice. Active listening, dialogue, mediation, and cooperative learning are delicate skills to develop. This is education in the widest sense”.
I would like to elaborate with my own experiences on international education, including leaving home to take residence in a country I had only known of from books and movies to return home and leave again to someplace completely different.
Initially, I’m from Ukraine, having grown up here my entire life one might say I have grown accustom to the educational system and ancient academic traditions. Ukraine has provided an education around 45 thousand foreign students from more than 130 different countries . I am a fourth year student at the Faculty of Dentistry, Crimea State Medical University named after S.I. Georgievsky. Presently, the university trains roughly around thirty eight hundred students with about thirteen hundred of them being international students. Here it was my first and wonderful experience of international education and cultural exchange in terms of studying together with students from other countries. International students are not just a fundamental part of our alma mater, but many of them are also prominent and gifted representatives of our university and a role model for other students. One of those, being a particularly intelligent and skillful dental resident from Lebanon, has had a significant and extraordinary impact on my professional growth. Ruslan has always been fascinated with the field of dentistry, constantly improving his skill set whenever and where ever possible, and has always had a strong desire to provide the best dental care possible to his patients. Furthermore, he was always eager to share the best of his knowledge and experiences with the younger students and, as a result, I happened to be one of his apprentices while getting hands-on training in the clinic. This notable person, who has become my very good friend with time, by his exceptional aesthetic work and willingness to help and give his competent advice, inspired me tremendously interested and passionate about all the aspects of my major, drove me to pursue more knowledge, to look for, discover, and learn about new techniques, materials, instruments, and ways of diagnostics and treatments of variety of dental diseases, and strive to master and constantly improve my skills. His contribution to my career development has been striking; I am very grateful and owe him a lot for helping to shape a deeply passionate and skillful dentist in myself. The effects of this amazing experience of educational-professional cooperation, a feeling of incredible gratitude and newfound friendship extend to most of Ruslan’s other student’s lives.
Pursuing my education further, I had applied and won a scholarship then spent two months studying English in one of the world’s best universities, the University of Alberta, Canada. There were a number of students from many different countries and having different religious beliefs and backgrounds in my class and my dormitory. Yet, they were all studying and living together happily without any conflict; in addition we were having a lot of fun just by spending time with each other. I felt this even more strongly while studying as an undergraduate exchange student in the U.S. during 2011-2012 at the University of Minnesota. I had the opportunity to make friends with so many people from not only America but as far as Canada, Guatemala, Panama, Chili, Great Britain, Netherlands, Denmark, France, Serbia, Austria, Israel, Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Japan, and Australia.
We were living at the “Student Crossing Borders” community in our dormitory and at all times learning more about each other’s cultures by participating and organizing varieties of activities on and off campus, doing our homework and different projects for our classes together, volunteering for different organizations, and traveling around the States. It has been so amazing to always feel each other’s true friendship, love, care, encouragement, and support in all the hardships we were facing at the time. I remember a student from Israel fell in love with a girl from Lebanon, a Danish guy started dating a South Korean girl, a Serbian Orthodox Christian girl found her soul mate in a Jewish young man from France, and an American Buddhist girl got engaged with a Bengali Hindu guy. I am currently studying in Slovak Republic and I keep getting further evidence that international student communities have the ability and power to develop and cultivate global tolerance, multinational relationships, and all-embracing loving care, undoubtedly contributing to universal peace. Thus, my Polish Roman Catholic classmate has been happily living with her Saudi Arabian Muslim husband for already more than three years, accepting and respecting each other’s religious beliefs and traditions, uniting in harmony with their extended families and friends. Likewise, my Serbian Protestant roommate, having been always fearing and having deep-rooted prejudice against all Arabs and Albanians has now made friends with a lot of Muslim Arabs throughout our school no longer perceiving them cautiously or with enmity. Similarly, our entire international dormitory is like a big multicultural family united in an incredibly amicable spirit.
Meanwhile, almost all of us, “American acquainted” international friends, still keep in touch via Facebook and Skype. We are actively engaged in each other’s life back at home, and truly supporting each other’s national team at different competitions, such as Eurovision song contest, European soccer championship 2012, and the Olympic Games. In addition, many of us either has already or is planning to visit each other in our home countries. For instance, my friend from Lebanon is coming to see me in Ukraine next summer, and this winter break I am meeting with my Serbian, Algerian, Dutch, and French friends in Paris to celebrate Christmas and New Year together.
In essence, this great experience of studying abroad gave us an opportunity to discover and learn about, respect, adjust to and sometimes even fall in love with each other’s cultures, traditions, beliefs and values. I am convinced that after bringing this great experience of cultural exchange, tolerance, freedom and democracy and especially spirit of friendship and caring love back to our home countries and sharing what we have learned with our relatives and friends; a Jew is not going to fight with a Muslim, a Muslim with a Christian, a Christian with a Buddhist, a Buddhist with a Hindu, and so on.
Consequently, these few internationally educational experiences (which, although, might sound very subjective, are just too powerful testimonies to neglect) have already shown strong potential to result in lifelong grateful and loving relationships within the young generations that will naturally eliminate any further prejudice, misconceptions or hostility that might arise in our countries towards one another and therefore will inevitably facilitate the lead to promotion of worldwide peace. Canada and The United States, being such open-minded and multiethnic communities of immigrants, are the perfect place for this type of a great cultural exchange to begin thus contributing to international understanding and union which will ultimately lead to peace and love in our global multinational family.
1 “Award Ceremony Speech.” The Nobel Peace Prize 1994. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1994/presentation-speech.html>.
2 BBC News. BBC, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/middle_east/>.
3 “Camp David Accords.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_David_Accords>.
4 “Education International.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Apr. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
5 “Opposition to the U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_the_U.S._involvement_in_the_Vietnam_War>.
6 “Peace Education.” Education International. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
7 The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/>.
8 “United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181.” - Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_181>.
9 “United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Partition_Plan_for_Palestine>.
10 Williamson, Roger. “Why Is Religion Still a Factor in Armed Conflict?” Why Is Religion Still a Factor in Armed Conflict? SAGE Publications; Life and Peace Institute, Uppsala, 1990. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/21/3/243.extract>.
11 “World War II.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II>.
12 “World War II.” World War II. CREDO Reference, 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.credoreference.com/topic/world_war_ii>.
13 “Образование в Украине.” СТУДЕНТ МИССИЯСЫ. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://studyinukraine.kz/obrazovanie-v-ukraine/>.