Lessons from the 2012 BUBW Conference - Orlando, Florida

Following the 2012 BUBW Orlando conference, Wisconsin student participants met in Madison, Wisconsin to follow up and reflect on the impact of the conference. "Honey" Rind and Nabila Kasyalia wrote this summary of the group's discussion.

The 2012 Better Understanding for a Better World Conference (BUBW) sponsored by the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (http://www.cecf-net.org) was a life altering experience. It truly helped us to understand the importance of our exchange year from a new perspective. The four days of the conference gave us an opportunity to fathom different religions and respect them. Historically, different societies have been in conflict in order to impose their religion by denying someone else's religious perspective. For decades this war of "I-am-better-than-you" is not ending. The map designed by ancestors becomes a path for their descendants to follow. Therefore, for the sake of ending these undeniable conflicts, it is important to understand and respect others' perspectives in order to live in a better world.

At the conference, students from all over the world came together and shared cultural experiences of living in United States. Seventy exchange students from thirty different countries attended the conference at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The conference was held to promote peace and remove stereotypes about each other's religions and countries throughout the world. This conference gave students a scenario of how to respect different cultures.

The BUBW conference was a place where students from thirty countries learned about each other's culture and religious similarities and differences. According to alumni of BUBW, differences in religion make us unique. We have one God but we have different manners to practice religion. God does exist in our hearts. If we believe in ourselves we will find God easily. During the conference, students worked together and enhanced their team work and leadership qualities.

Today's youth is the future of tomorrow and the strength of this world. Since many countries in the world do not have freedom of speech, people cannot always raise their voice for their rights. We had a session for leadership skills at the conference which was a great motivation for today's youth. Our youthful optimism makes it possible for us to "be the change."

Alumni of BUBW are looking forward to working in their communities when they return to their home countries. They are planning to give presentations in their home countries of what they have learned so far and gained from BUBW. Some students said that they will open a club in their schools to do community service. They are also looking forward to teaching others the leadership skills they learned from BUBW such as adapting to different challenges in life. This conference has had a great influence in our lives and has changed us tremendously.

The students at the conference worked together in teams to address a variety of global issues. Countries that never meet or do not get to work together due to political reasons sat together and promised to spread peace by shaking hands with each other. We all are sent in this world one time and life is a gift. It would be much easier to spread peace in the world by sharing a smile and happy moments with each other regardless of our race, ethnicity, cast or gender. As Shakespeare said, "Life is too short to love, how can people hate each other." A smile works like ripples in a bowl of water. We can contribute to world peace by smiling.