Proof That We’re Not So Different After All

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I realized I’ve been holding onto something. It’s something I don’t want to lose or forget. I figured keeping the memory all to myself would make it last forever. But now it’s time to relive it and share it. (On the internet – because the internet is FOREVER!)

I’ve been dragging out the posts about my trip to Indonesia for over a year now…but here is the final chapter: ISC PROM!

The last day of our conference felt like the last day of summer camp – a group of strangers became intimate friends over the course of a week, and it’s too painful to even consider saying goodbye. We promised to keep in touch, but we knew we might never see each other again. (Thankfully, social media – and this blog – makes it a lot easier to creepily keep up with every last detail of someone’s life.)

For the closing ceremony, we were instructed to wear traditional attire and to represent our culture with a performance. It was at this moment that I realized that American culture is very difficult to explain or display. My “traditional” attire was business casual. My options for a cultural performance were limited (or were rendered impossible by my lack of performance skill). I turned to Facebook for inspiration, and my friends didn’t let me down. Or did they?

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Needless to say, I left the performing to the other students…

When we all filed in to the conference room, it was also clear that us “Westies” were underdressed in our business casual outfits. Well, not really underdressed, just BORING. (Not really boring, but you get it.)

The gorgeous variation of colors and textiles used in the traditional outfits from around the world were truly a sight to behold.

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So naturally, we had to take pictures. But not just a few pictures. THOUSANDS. It would start with one or two people gathering for a photo.

Here’s HyunSeop posing in his Korean attire. More and more then people notice that someone is taking a picture, and suddenly…

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BOOM! Giant group photo!

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This went on for a good half hour before we settled in for the ceremony…

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The closing ceremony itself was a moving and emotional conclusion to a whirlwind week. We received diplomas, honored our professors, and ate a delicious meal. Several country delegations performed:

The Japanese girls sang J-Pop.

The Swedish students invited everyone to join them in a Midsummer Festival Dance called “Små grodorna” (had to look up the spelling of that one…) which involved hopping around a maypole like a frog! You know you want to watch it.

Posted by Dónal Gaynor on Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The African Union did a dance while Daniel played and sang “One Love” on his guitar.

Kar, Amir and Atie COMPOSED a song called “Unity in Diversity” and Kar and Daniel performed it live! It brought people to tears, and the conference director was so moved that she declared it the ISC anthem.

Then, the Filipinos stole the show with a video intro and a dance mashup that included traditional dances and viral classics like “What Does the Fox Say?” They even invited the audience to learn a dance with them!

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Finally, the Indonesian hosts performed a beautiful traditional dance.

Superlative awards were given (I’m very proud of my “Ms. Brainy” title!) and that was that!

The night ended with hugging, dancing and crying. And of course, more pictures. It was easily one of the top 10 most fun nights of my life.

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It feels weird to be finished reliving these amazing memories, but it also reminds me of what I learned from each and every one of these people.

I learned that we are not so different. Our appearances, our languages, our accents and our senses of humor may seem to divide us. But in reality, we are all capable of love that is bigger than all of that. We’re all guilty of taking too many selfies. We have all laughed until our bellies ached. We have all cried in joy and sadness. We can be goofy and silly, or we can have serious discussions that will improve the world in which we live.

When people come together and step outside of their cultural norms and limitations, we see each other for who we really are: people. Not Japanese people or Indonesian people or Australian people or American people. Human people.

This conference broke down barriers that we didn’t know existed between us. It helped us learn about foreign cultures while learning about ourselves. We came away with a greater knowledge of how to tackle some of the problems facing out world. But more importantly, we came away with an ability to accept each other, to love each other, and to understand each other. We are not so different.

(And if 100 students from around the world dancing together to “What Does the Fox Say?” isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is.)

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2 Comments

  1. Caroline

    Laniii!!! Been waiting for your stories. This might sounds cheesy, but I like the way you poured those words into an excellent story. I think you should write a novel, or a travelling journal (like those people on Lonely Planet have), or anything. You’re a good writer.
    Anyway, I see that you and Vita, met a few months back. So… jealous lol.
    How’s life?

    Reply
    1. lanifurbank (Post author)

      Thanks so much, Caroline! I appreciate your kind words! 🙂

      Vita and I had fun meeting up in DC! Next time you’re in town, let me know! 😉

      Things are going great on my end – I hope you are doing well, too!

      Reply

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