Iryna Nadyukova ’10
Volodymyr-Volynsky, Ukraine/Reno, NV
iryna [dot] nadyukova [at] gmail [dot] com
I would like to share a story about the ten amazing days that changed my life. After coming back from my FLEX year as an open-minded person with new ideas and interest in other countries and cultures, I did not want the wonderful experience of diversity and cultural exchange in my life to end. So, I searched for new opportunities to continue and improve that experience, and I found what I looked for. I spent this past June (6-17) at fantastic Peace Camp, organized by People to People International. PTPI (www.ptpi.org) was founded on September 11, 1956 by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He believed “peaceful relations between nations requires understanding and mutual respect between individuals,” and his goal in creating PTPI was to enhance international understanding and friendship. Today, PTPI has a presence in 135 countries with more than 80,000 families and individuals actively participating in its programs, working to promote Peace through Understanding.
Peace Camp, one of PTPI’s signature programs, nurtures the next generation of emerging youth leaders and prepares them to successfully meet the challenges of adulthood and global leadership. The success of the program is based on the competitive selection of participants from around the world, the involvement of devoted student leaders that mentor students individually, and the presentation of innovative curriculum and group activities.
I applied for Peace Camp 2011 in Turkey last November. After being selected as one of 30 participants out of over 400 applicants, I was asked to complete a series of preparation curriculum, had a chance to get to know other Peace Campers and leaders through engaging discussions on Facebook, and just waited in anticipation for Peace Camp to start. Finally, the most wonderful ten days of my life began.
First, I got to meet all the remarkable participants and leaders. Together we went through our introductory session, where one of our great leaders, Barbara Capozzi welcomed us to the beginning of the rest of our lives. Many exciting sessions followed this one. Every day we made discoveries, met challenges and actively discussed important issues. We learned about the role of youth in conflict and the influence of natural resources during conflicts. We discovered peace journalism and how it works through a number of challenging sessions and had a chance to use gained knowledge and skills for creating a newspaper together. We were given a better understanding of the world through deeply insightful sessions on culture, religion and gender roles.
The time apart from working in sessions was used to explore Turkey. We had an opportunity to see the famous Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Chora Church and have fun shopping at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Next, we were simply amazed by the lunar landscapes, the underground city and the cave churches in Cappadocia. Visiting ancient cities of Ephesus and Perge was another one of the highlights of our trip. House of Virgin Mary and temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, were the other places we greatly enjoyed seeing. Furthermore, we had an opportunity to see a fantastic performance by world-renowned Whirling Dervishes and try all kinds of traditional Turkish food, but the most unique opportunity was having dinner with a local family in Cappadocia. We were able to visit with a Turkish family, eat delicious homemade food and try to use our poor Turkish to thank the friendly hosts.
My favorite part about Peace Camp was enjoying cultural diversity. The experience that I got during my FLEX year was enriched in many new ways. I learned so much about various countries through presentations every participant has prepared and just through everyday conversations. At the same time I shared Ukrainian culture with others. This was very beneficial experience that opened a whole new world to me with fascinating information about various aspects of life that I probably wouldn’t have found out any other way. For instance, I never knew there were five different types of bananas growing in Ecuador! As Peace Camp progressed, I started finding more similarities between all of the participants of our diverse group, and realized that, after all, we were more similar than different. Besides, now having wonderful friends in various countries, I also care more about what is going on in the world than I did before.
Moreover, Peace Camp was filled with other great additions that made our time in Turkey an unforgettable experience. We had a chance to visit the children rehabilitation center and learn about its work in Istanbul. Meeting participants from previous years and hearing about how Peace Camp has changed their lives was another inspiring component of the program. Our lives were filled with bright colors and great excitement when we were working on our Peace murals that will later become a part of the exhibition of artworks of students from all over the world. Finally, getting to know distinguished PTPI President and CEO Mary Jean Eisenhower was one more highlight from the amazing program.
The most important part of Peace Camp for me was meeting the greatest people. I expected to make some friends, but I never thought it would be so easy to make long-lasting friendships with all participants and leaders. I was positively impressed by how open-minded and sincere everyone was. It may be hard to believe, but we have actually become one big family and now I feel closer to my Peace Camp friends than to some people I have known for years.
Our program concluded with an amazing Peace Sail through the Mediterranean Sea and presentations of our individual “make a difference” plans, where each participant had to explain how he or she will use the gained experience to make a change in his or her community. Although Peace Camp flew by very fast, I think it truly was just the beginning of rest of my life. It completely changed my vision of the world and charged me with positive energy and enthusiasm for spreading Peace Through Understanding. Now I am hoping to start PTPI chapter at my university and stay involved by organizing and participating in various cultural and humanitarian activities. The great news is that everyone is free to join or start a chapter and be a part of amazing life-changing experiences! Considering my experience at Peace Camp, that is what I would recommend you to do. It is easy, just check out the website – www.ptpi.org and find the chapter that is the closest to you!