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More Alike Than Different
At the Iowa Student Global Leadership Conference, 132 Students From 53 Countries Made New Friends That Will Last a Lifetime

New friendships and cultural connections flourished as foreign exchange students from across Iowa gathered Feb. 2–3, 2018, in Des Moines for two days of fun and learning. The Stanley Foundation first organized the Iowa Student Global Leadership Conference in 1995 with the goal of fostering global citizenship.

Getting-acquainted activities set the stage for delving deeper into some global issues. This provides an appropriate environment for people from many different countries to meet and learn from each other.

The first night, students learned about each other’s cultures by sharing their countries’ traditional dress, answering trivia questions, and taking part in a speed-friending activity. They later danced to popular international tunes and recorded short, silly vignettes that were made into souvenir books.

The next day, noted speaker Dean Jacobs delivered the keynote address. Jacobs told the students he decided to fulfill his dreams of traveling the world after a terrifying, near-death experience. “It’s not the accumulation of stuff, it’s the accumulation of experiences” that’s important, Jacobs said.

The students learned about his journey to find the Seven Wonders of the World and how to apply the seven lessons he learned along the way. He challenged the students to ask themselves if they encounter each of these lessons—such as curiosity, humility, and respect—each day.

“We never let fear stop us,” Jacobs said, emphasizing that students need to “dream big, live tall, to make the world better. Dreams aren’t for special people, they’re for everyone.”

After lunch, the teens broke into small groups for student facilitator-led discussions on topics like climate change, nuclear weapons policy, education, Internet neutrality, agriculture, and poverty. They came back together to share their perspectives, many of which focused on how similar people are from around the world.


— Francie Williamson
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The Winter 2018 issue of Courier focuses on innovators and innovative ideas for global challenges—the role of women and vulnerable countries in mitigating climate change; the potential of blockchain technology in nuclear safeguards; the part the Boy Scouts are playing to keep the peace in the Central African Republic; the possibility that private enterprise could contribute to a more resilient society in Iraq; and an appreciation of the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Winter 2018 PDF. Subscribe for Free.


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