Marching in our gowns and reflecting on our life!
By Hassan Aboulenein, Student Body President 2016 – 2017
Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, class of 2017
A couple of months ago, I was asked to write up a blog covering the last three years of my life in Geneva and precisely at the Geneva School Of Diplomacy. I am still dwelling on the fact that 3 years have already passed; it feels like yesterday. Now we can really call ourselves ‘’global leaders’’, taking on life and exploring new opportunities in a rapidly evolving world.
Three years ago, I arrived in Geneva with a sense and desire to explore the realms of international relations and international law and the vast network it is enshrined in. I choose the Geneva School of Diplomacy precisely for that reason; as a university it was established on the margins of such network. I can easily affirm it has been memorable and fruitful. I would definitely repeat it if I had the same opportunity. Summing it up in a blog is without doubt a challenging task.
Since I stepped foot at GSD, I came to realize I was in a cultural melting pot. Indeed, on my first day I had the pleasure to interact and get to know people from 12 different countries. As I always say, GSD has someone from every single corner of the world. However, this is not only GSD, it is the essence of the global village we simply call ‘’Geneva.’’ Every single corner of the city captivates you with its rich history and motivates you to lead and tread the unknown. Indeed Dr. Colum De Sales Murphy, president of GSD said a few words that still resound till this day. In our induction program he noted: ‘‘you are tomorrow’s future global leaders, be the change, impacting the society you live in and, as GSD believes: Serviendo Guberno, that to govern is to serve.’’
The teaching experience at GSD implores innovative approaches to traditional education. I can assure you it’s a life changing discourse, with its pros and cons. Classrooms and professors are not the traditional orthodox lecturers everyone is used to in other universities. You are taught by world-class faculty, which includes academia and professionals dedicated towards bridging the gap between theory and practice in the fields of economics, law, politics, trade and management. Over the course of the previous years I was taught by Ambassadors, UN professionals, business executives, economists, lawyers and Judges from countries such as the United States, Russia, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, India, Tunisia and Congo.
As soon as you enter a class at GSD, you suddenly start dissecting emerging and contemporary challenges the global community faces. Such environment is also supplemented by the interactive modus operandi of GSD which results in the exchange of arguments between peer to peer and peer to lecturer, creating a unique, constructive and competitive ambiance. Each day, you learn something new and in a building block process you become empowered to be the change.
The series of lectures held by GSD on a weekly basis adds to such learning experiences and knowledge. I had the pleasure to attend and participate in discussions with Michael Moller, Director General of UNOG; Ambassador William Nancy Swing, IOM director General; Mr. Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO; and many other leaders from governmental and private organizations across domains of media and marketing, sustainable development, child rights and many other fields.
Living in Geneva and going to GSD allows students to stride along the hallways of the ‘Palais des Nations’, the European headquarters of the United Nations an its magnificent library, alongside other institutions as the Graduate Institute and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. You have the opportunity to attend and interact with scholars and professionals from all over the world throughout the dozens of conferences that take place in Switzerland. I had the opportunity to participate in ‘inter-alia’; The Geneva Summit for Human Rights Development and Democracy, United Nations Seminar on Sports and Sustainable Development, Geneva Peace Talks, the 17th International Summit on Transnational Justice and Crime, and United Nations Seminars on Human, Economic and Social Development.
Individually you have the opportunity to engage in exchange programs and extracurricular courses and activities in other institutions and universities, which you get in contact with through the platform offered by GSD. Personally I had the opportunity to attend executive courses at the GCSP on Neurophysiology, Global Security and Geopolitics, Navigating and Understanding Political Transitions and Security Sector Reform and Outer Security and International Law, which further served my preparation and integration into the Geneva network.
It facilitates other doors and paves the way for meeting and interacting with students and professionals from all over the world. I had the opportunity to compete in the Cyber 9/12 Challenge, tackling evolving cyber events. With my teammates we created team ‘STUXNET’ and won the 2017 edition, beating universities such as Oxford, Stanford, LSE, KCL and other military academies from the United States, Finland, Sweden and Poland respectively. After a month of winning this competition, the exact cyber crisis that was handled, hit Europe. Such experiences are supported by Geneva’s global network and adds to the mitigation of gaps between theory and practice.
On the lines of GSD’s mantra, students are encouraged to embark on internships with governmental and non-governmental organizations stretched across Europe and the world, which complements such experiences. I interned with the International Telecommunications Union allowing me to work on development in Africa and third world countries using Information Technology and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which took me to the fields of human rights and conflict mitigation across the Middle East and conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq; becoming the youngest intern at OHCHR at only 20 years old. These experiences allow you to ignite your professional career and integrate yourself into the global network. Moreover, I had the opportunity to intern with Zulficar and Partners, an International Arbitration firm in the Middle East, which further complemented my understanding of my studies and allowed me to explore other careers.
Throughout such portals students at GSD get to participate in diverse meetings such as the Human Rights Council, Conference on Disarmament, World Health Assembly and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Throughout the 34th session of the Human Rights council myself and 8 other students participated in the modalities of the session. I highly doubt any other universities and faculties allow such. The internship experience at GSD is ‘’a captivating journey that changed my life.’’ I will never forget for instance sitting in a high level humanitarian event, chaired by Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General while being squeezed between the Director General of WHO, Senior Vice president of the World Bank, Executive directors of WFP, UNICEF and other senior managers from UNDP, UN-WOMEN, IOM and UNHCHR.
On the other hand, life in Geneva transposes way beyond the parameters of GSD and our beautiful Chateau des Penthes. I had the pleasure to serve on the student body for 3 years and lead it in my final year; this developed into what I refer to as my ‘’extended family.’’ We had the opportunity to have ‘’fun’’, meet new people and enjoy the beautiful environment. Many say Geneva is boring; I like to challenge the statement on a regular basis. I had the opportunity to develop friendships I will never forget and shall always cherish, meeting people of remarkable instance. I created a global network, which in my consideration is of unparalleled height, I travelled to a dozen countries and experienced new cultures all of which fed into the frivolous experiences and knowledge I developed. The same applies to any student at GSD.
Leaving Geneva is always a tough choice; you develop a love-hate relationship with the city. You do come to realize that it furnishes to the needs of a variety of people and teaches you the importance of co-existence, respect multicultural diversity for a sustainable and resent life. In short, the previous 3 years have been mesmerising!! All of us embark on critical journeys in our lives, pursuing master degrees, professional careers or merely enjoying life for a bit, but these experiences shall always remain a cornerstone in our future prospect and life ahead.
To all my fellow colleagues, classmates, professors and supervisors… thank you for everything, it has been terrific and as Albert Einstein said ”Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”.