Cultural dialogue at the center of student training program in Greece
Eight LAU students join dozens of others from around the world in Crete for a two-week program that blends an academic curriculum with cultural enlightenment.
“I haven’t been the same person since I’ve been back,” says Ghina Harb, an LAU political science student, describing her personal transformation during a two-week, culturally oriented academic program in the island of Crete, Greece.
“I feel that I’ve grown mentally. I’m more patient now — I take my time in normal daily-life situations. I’m more tolerant religiously, culturally, ethnically,” she says. “The program opened up a gate, a path to seek more.”
Harb, along with seven other LAU students, joined dozens of young peace seekers from around the world who took part in the 15th annual International Institute for Political Science and Economic Studies program from July 24-August 9.
Each year, the program offers a political/economic curriculum, with a special focus on issues relevant to the Mediterranean region, inside a culturally rich atmosphere. This year, 79 participants from 26 countries shared rooms, sat together in class, went on field trips, and formed bonds with one another.
The multidisciplinary program offers courses in political economy, history, philosophy and conflict management, in addition to activities designed to promote dialogue and international exchange. It is sponsored by The Fund for American Studies, the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
“It’s not just the courses that were helpful,” says Pardie Karamanoukian, a 2010 LAU graduate in economics. “It’s the whole surrounding, the people there, learning about other cultures. That’s what makes it worth it.”
“Indirectly, they try to teach you to be friends with the ‘enemy,’” Karamanoukian adds, explaining how she felt the main goal of the program was to learn to disregard the differences between individuals that are traditional sources of conflict.
The program featured several guest lecturers, including Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defense of Bulgaria; Peter Beard, NATO Headquarters Staff Officer of the Operations Division; and Eirini Lemos Maniati, NATO Liaison Officer to the UN.
Among the 79 participants, 16 were from Lebanon (LAU students and others), more than any other country.
Somehow this makes sense, Harb explains, considering the social tension in the country. “The program would help the Lebanese more than anyone,” she says.
She adds: “It’s not easy interacting with other people. In Crete, we had to learn to tolerate others.”
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