Many political scientists have made the claim that "international peace and cooperation" (or maybe it is peace and security...but, for my purposes here we will modify it to cooperation) is the endgame of global politics, when analyzed through both Realist and Liberal lenses alike. In many ways, Rotary International has come closer to acheiving this goal than even the United Nations. While the United Nations remains a tangled web of old alliances and power plays between members of its Security Council, Rotary has bypassed old politics and created an organization truely based on international cooperation, and definitely a bit of Idealism.
This past week I had the opportunity to experience this cooperation in action. I traveled to Belo Horizonte last Saturday for my first District 4520 meeting. Throughout that day I met students from Australia, France, Taiwan, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and others from the United States. Although some of us were separated by the rather large and imposing barrier of language, we were united under a similar purpose--to live in and learn about Brazil and eachother. The thing about Rotary is that not only are you sent to learn about your host country, but you are given the opportunity to learn about many other countries as well. However, this puts a bit of pressure on you--If another exchange student is going to learn about your country based on how well you represent it, what do you do?
This week taught me the importance and responsibility that comes with being such an ambassador. The first and foremost thing to remember is that there is always someone watching--whether it be a Brazilian, another exchange student, or Rotary. And Rotary is always watching. This is not a bad thing, because when you understand that your actions are constantly being analyized you learn to control them. Of course, it is impossible not to mistep along the way, but as long as you learn from these mistakes, then you are doing everything you can. This is a year about changing. It is a year about making mistakes and learning from them--with everything from the language, to the public transportation system, to more sensitive topics. It is all about choices. Will you choose to learn? Will you choose to change? If your answer is yes, then Rotary is your friend and your tool to success. If your answer is no, then you better start packing now.
I have made the decision to learn and to change, which I think is a pretty good decision. I have so much yet that I want to see, to do, and to learn. I look forward to getting to know the other exchange students and am excited by the relationships we have already begun. If one thing is for certain, we are all strong individuals. Never underestimate the power of united exchange students. Today we may just be a bunch of teenagers from around the world, but tomorrow? Who knows? Tomorrow we may be policy makers, doctors, ambassadors, and presidents. If we can remember the lessons from this year, then we might just be able to get closer to acheiving the endgame--true international peace and cooperation. How cool is that?
Tchau e beijos.
(pictured below, Belo Horizonte, view from my apartment)