Every now and then we hear the phrase, “it is a small world” but my experiences this summer gave those words a new, much deeper, meaning. I participated in a volunteer exchange programme through AIESEC, and went to Egypt. The country is known for its vast history and friendly people and I could not wait to immerse myself into this culture.
Every week, we would explore a new temple, bewildered at the idea that people who lived more than 5000 years ago were able to conceive and build such spectacular structures. I was completely taken aback by the marvel of Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, The Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Abu Simbel. Being a student with a background in engineering, I could not help but wonder at the precision, accuracy and finesse with which these Wonders of the World had been constructed.
The best part about being on an AIESEC exchange is not the place where you go to but the people you meet. I had the chance of meeting people from all over the world - India, Slovenia, Colombia, Brazil, China, Turkey, Tunisia, Kenya, England, USA, and many others, who, if I choose to name, would fill a significant portion of this article. I sat with them, ate with them, shared rooms with them and hung out with them for six weeks. I came to an understanding that although all of us had our unique accent, different cultures, and varying opinions regarding life, there was something that all of us could relate to: we were passengers in this journey called life and everyone’s journey was as interesting as the other’s. I realised that we had more in common then we cared to acknowledge. Boundaries due to political, geographical, religious and social differences were always meant to divide us - to separate “us” from “them”.
Programmes such as AISEC promote the development of a global consciousness and a people orientation, making us understand that nearly every known problem can be eradicated if we collectively collaborate. Talking to a person with a different perspective than your own brings into view a new horizon that you may have been completely blind to before.
The moments we shared, conversations we had, and the friendships we forged, I will forever cherish, and although they maybe thousands of miles away from where I am, I know that we now share a bond like no other and indeed made this world a much smaller place.
In the end, I wish to share what one of my friends, Kiranjotkaur Velacha, from India wrote for me:
Somewhere in the midst of explosions and firings,
A few individuals met in a separate field.
Somewhere in the midst of mayhem and darkness,
They strived to spread peace.
Somewhere in the midst of hatred and envy,
One of them proved that love knows no boundaries.
Syed Adeel Akhtar is the team leader at AISEC in Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Science and Technology.