Fresh into the summer of 2018, junior Joseph Lee attended the International Affairs & Security program of the Yale University Young Global Scholars Program for a challenging two weeks.
Lee was first drawn to the program after reading about the diverse and like-minded people who attend. With motivated and enthusiastic kids from 126 countries, he instantly knew that was the environment he wanted to surround himself in. “Even if I hadn’t gotten in, I just had to apply,” he says.
In order to make himself stand out among a sea of affluent applicants, Lee took a unique but successful approach to the personal essay, discussing the value of emotional intelligence and empathy. “Everyone has motivation and everyone has ambition but if you don’t have empathy, you’re not going to become a leader,” says Lee.
Lee’s two weeks were not spent leisurely. His schedule consisted of 7am wakeups and nights ending at midnight. From morning lectures, he headed off to seminars taught by the likes of Yale professors and graduate students, discussing topics ranging from ethics in war to the morality of charity. Working on his culminating capstone project and additional homework finished off his days.
Although initially expressing he felt intimidated by his peers and insecure about discussing politics and international affairs, Lee found his confidence quickly. “I don’t usually like talking about [politics] because I feel like I’m not qualified to talk about that kind of stuff,” says Lee. “But after the first day I broke out of my shell and [discovered] it was so much fun talking to your friends about complex issues and being inspired.”
He attributed much of this to the openness of the environment and the encouragement of deep inquisition to the students and teachers. “You could say controversial stuff and you could be inquisitive,” adds Joseph. The immense diversity of students present, even within a group as small as 10 people, greatly impacted the discussion by including a spectrum of perspectives and beliefs into the conversation. Lee expressed that the unbound nature of conversation he encountered challenged him and inspired greater learning.
For his culminating capstone project, Lee and three other students focused on researching the impact of Christianity on the Mississippi LGBT community. Although divided by differing opinions, Lee and his group were able to work together and use their varying perspectives to develop a more well-rounded understanding of their topic.
One of Lee’s biggest takeaways from the experience was a new understanding of open-mindedness. Although controversial topics were always debated leading to some uncomfortable conversation, there was never hostility or judgment. The students did not only acknowledge each others’ point of views, but respected and validated them, no matter how much they disagreed. “There was civility [between] people on opposite ends of the spectrum,” says Lee. “It was the true meaning of open-mindedness.”