I want to first say thank you: each staff member, facilitator, intern, interpreter, partner, participant, follower, and reader who has been a part of my life over the past year has helped shaped not only my experience at WinC, but who I have become as a result of the experience. I started at WinC right after I graduated from college with no real world experience and I ended up actually gaining the world. Being the Global Programs Administrator for the Center exposed me to incredible people and interesting perspectives. Not just at Penn State, but people around the world who share their perspectives with me every day.
My first weeks at WinC were filled with learning the basics of the technology and the inner workings of the community. Once I had that down, I began meeting our global dialogue partners and seeking out new ones. I have to say; the personal friendships that I have built with our partners were and continue to be invaluable. All around the world I have gotten to know about people, their families, their lives, and their struggles. I can assure you they are very similar to mine. After all, isn’t that the point – that we are all the same? Reflecting back on my time here, I have been preaching to students that one conversation with people on the other side of the world can help you form opinions on others that dissolve media bias. I didn’t realize until now that I had been engaging in my own dialogues and forming my own opinions of people, learning that we are all similar. We are one people.
World in Conversation has an aphorism that “a tiny act can have profound effects.” For me, that act has been listening. We talk about what it means to be an active listener: listening to what people are saying beyond the words and being able to comprehend it. Responding to it fully is a task that most people take for granted. Here, we work on it daily. Just this afternoon I was in a meeting with my boss and she gave me a lovely compliment. She said that there was a way about me which people always feel like I am really listening to them. I am not sure if that was always the case, but I am glad that it is now. I learn so much from each person that I encounter. To me, it makes very little difference if you have a PhD or if you are still in high school. Maybe you didn’t even finish high school, or maybe you are my two year old godson– you have things to say and I want to hear them. Will I agree everything that everyone has to say? No chance! However, I have nothing but faith in the fact that when I hear them, even if I don’t agree, I will think about it. Those thoughts can make all the difference.
During my time here my job has also included working with Soc 297 students. All I can say is, “wow”. The beautiful minds of people who are exploring a serious topic like the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict has been eye opening. Watching people talk and listen to each other speak about such a difficult topic, hearing graphic and upsetting stories, and actively listening to them has been humbling. Seeing students come together and form lasting friendships because of this class (even if they are facebook friendships) from across the world helps me to understand and experience the effects of dialogue first hand. It makes me smile.
Speaking of smiles, when I walk up and down the hall of our center I see not only the faces of the people who want to change the world, but the faces of the people who ARE changing the world. As a staff member of World in Conversation who was never a facilitator, I first had a difficult time grasping the principles of the work. As I observed dialogues and talked to facilitators and got to know the faces of these halls, I can say that I am confidant that there will be change in the world at the hands of past, present, and future facilitators and through the people whom they have touched. It makes me happy to know that I – along with all of the beautiful people involved at WinC – will have the opportunity to take what we learn here and bring it out into the world. My partners have told me time and time again how valuable these dialogues are to them personally and professionally, and I cannot help but think, “yeah, for me too.”
The work that happens here is so grand and vast that as the center continues to flourish I know that it will only continue to exceed my expectations. With that said, my time as the Global Programs Administrator is coming to a close. As I start a new leg of my career journey, I will always hold a very high and special place in my heart for World in Conversation and all of the people who have made this experience what it has been. A special thanks to Sam, Laurie, and Danna Jayne who gave me this opportunity in the first place. You have changed my life. Everyone here has.
Thank you everyone for your support and your well wishes. I appreciate every moment that we have spend together in person, on Skype, on the phone, and every other mode of communication, building bridges for a better world through dialogue, and through our own personal conversations. We will stay in touch, and I hope to continue taking strides to change the world alongside each of you.
“Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction”