Yodeling, whistling, sending smoke signals or carrier pigeons, etc. This is not a list of weird hobbies but rather ways that were once used by humans to communicate over long-distances. Talking about long-distances, more than 7000 miles (11000 kilometers) separate Hanil High School in Korea from Bellows Free Academy in USA. To close this geographical gap, the students from these two schools decided to use more reliable and modern forms of communication.
Over the last three months, these two schools connected with one another by posting messages online through the IVECA platform. This week, these Korean and U.S. teenagers had an even more immediate interaction. After researching discrimination issues and international conflicts, they met virtually to have live exchanges of their perspectives to build a better future.
For about one hour, they held panel discussions in order to propose an action plan for equality and harmony. While the Korean panelists exposed their ideas about conflicts affecting international relations of East Asia, the young U.S. speakers focused on the African continent. To tackle various issues ranging from the controversy over Japanese Yasukuni Shrine to the illicit trade of natural resources and exotic pets in Africa, the students developed solutions based on the similar strategies. All the participants in this debate agreed that communication, diplomacy and cultural interaction will pave the way to stronger and healthier relationships between countries. One of the U.S. students reflected on her experience:
“… Doing IVECA and talking to you and your school showed me how working together with other countries can solve inequalities… In the future I hope that many of the problems and inequalities we face today are no longer an issue… I hope that by standing up for my beliefs like the people in the Gwangju Uprising I can help stop inequalities and make a difference…”
Of course, reducing the communication gap between different cultures is a road filled with challenges. The students themselves sometimes had a difficult time communicating with their partners due to the language barrier. But thanks to their open mindset and hard work, they made the most of this intercultural partnership. The farewell letters they exchanged at the end of their live classes demonstrate that they successfully managed to transcend cultural boundaries:
“ …We really enjoyed the activities with you. At first, it wasn’t easy to communicate in English. We searched for dictionary dozens of times to use the most appropriate expression… The activity about ‘Conflicts in history’ gave us a chance to learn about many different conflicts around the world. “ Student from Hanil High School, Korea.
“IVECA was an amazing experience for all of us here in the United States. We have enjoyed getting to know more about you and your country, and we hope you enjoyed meeting us as well. Learning about each other has helped us develop friendship skills, and learning about your country has made us closer… “ Student from Bellows Free Academy, Vermont.
“ …I encourage you to think of today’s class as not the end but a new beginning and hope for each other’s best although we are far apart.. “ Shin Insoo, Vice Principal of Hanil High School, Korea.