The Guts to Lead a Group

When I decided to make this the title of the blog, I was thinking about calling it responsibility but I realized that taking responsibility requires the guts to accept it; simply because you can easily say no to it and can feel inadequate.

Let me define it first. Responsibility is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

And in every trip we go to I believe in this more and more as I see it in myself as I have this referent power given to me by my peers and I happily accept it. Disneyland as much as it was the happiest days of my life but it required responsibility to make it the happiest as you have to decide what you really wanna do to enjoy every second and make it worthwhile. And, I naturally found myself taking responsibility without even thinking about it, and it was only responsibility of making myself happy but the rest of the group that was part of, and it was fun especially when everyone starts telling stories about it at the end of the day.

Disneyland

Disneyland

Then, we go to New York and part two of happiness begins where everyone wants to do and try everything but time is your barrier. At this point, you will take the responsibility of doing what you really want and not hesitate for a second. And, here is the outcome in the next picture.

Yes it’s the Empire State view

Yes it’s the Empire State View

Empire State View

Empire State View

And if you relate this to leadership; you will find that in your daily life and at work you will have to do this. In other words, having the guts to do the right thing!

In Times Square with the UD MEPIs

In Times Square with the UD MEPIs

An Amazing Day in NYC

New York City

New York City

 

 

What an amazing day!

It was one of the best days of my life. Walking around New York and feeling like a dwarf between all the sky scrapers. That was something to remember.

Today was our first day at New York. We went to Times Square at first then had a group dinner at Dallas BBQ. Times Square was very crowded, but I was so happy to see people from all around the world. The diversity here is just mind blowing!  I think the foreigners and tourists are more than the Americans themselves at those touristic places. I also noticed that new Yorkers have this funny accent. It’s harder for me to understand them actually.

One more thing I noticed is that many many Arabs work and live in New York. I was kinda sad to see them working in low quality jobs. That’s something that made me feel that I have to work extra hard to prove that no, we can be and we can do much better than we are expected to do. I believe that the only way to do so is by getting good education that’s why I’m so grateful for the MEPI program and all the things I learned from it.

The thing that makes me really sad is that this amazing experience is soon to be finished. We have less than two weeks left here and there is still so much to see and so much to learn. I plan to make the most out of the next few days that we still have. I’m super excited to explore the rest of New York City.  We will start by the September 11 Memorial then Statue of Liberty and hopefully we will have enough time to see the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.

 

–Bassant

Take the Best of It

University of San Diego

University of San Diego

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. Nothing can stop the blue hens from achieving their goals and their missions, and for this purpose they are willing to work hard and break all the struggles in order to change the world.

The MEPI programme is giving us the power and the opportunity to explore the US and learning about its culture which is the frame of the fabulous history made by the brave men and women. All the students have been showing their interest and their eagerness to study and develop their leadership abilities in order to alter their surroundings, bring the best for their countries, and realize what they have been dreaming about.

The last week we were in San Diego which was the best experience that we could ever try, we traveled with huge enthusiasm, it was clear that we were as keen as mustard to explore this beautiful city which shows one of the images of the diversity in the United States. Traveling with the team including the staff and our program coordinator was such an spectacular experience and adventure since we are one family under the big motto of “dare to be first “, and “we are here to change the world”……every single word in those sayings was meant and in every time we say them we feel our power, our existence, and our willingness to make all our dreams true. Let me express how much we admire the San Diego State University, being inside is one of the inspiration that makes you feel the glory of the states and smell the freedom of a long struggling calling for the magnificence of this country.  You can admire every thing that the Americans tolerate and believe in including the freedom of the religion and the sanctification of the education and the higher research.

After a study tour on the campus of San Diego State University, we went to the place where we started to really believe in ourselves and and our visions became ahead of us, this place was the The  School of Peace Studies of the University Of San Diego.  Here we learned many things and we got an idea that every single one of us can generate and promote peace through the exchanges programme and through the projects that can use as a bridge of peace and tolerance between the nations.  Also we had  a lot of examples of peace buildings in different part of the worlds and we get to know a good example of youth working hard to make the people believe in what they do, to push the wheel of the development in their countries, and clear the dust and the darkness of wars and discrimination. This really served to us as a role model after finishing this bounteous conference we had the time to explore this beautiful city and San Diego Zoo was the best example of the modernity and the creativity of the Americans.

When we heard that we are going to Disneyland all the MEPIs went crazy and they started counting the days to rock this amazing place,, and true it was the best adventure ever for everyone.  Indeed it was a tiring day but we had great fun especially starting by the leadership activity which cleared our visions and made us react as true leaders and gave us a brief history about this place and about the great leader Walt Disney who started from the bottom and using the lowest means to create  the place called the dream for everyone.  Thank you Dr. Tracey,  you were a good guide and we had unforgettable moments with you and the other staff as well.

After this trip, we headed back to our sweet home Delaware to pursuing our works and our classes: ”Time for hard work dears”.

The high spirit of the students never stops beside the support and the help of our teachers and the staff as well to make us realize our projects and take the best of this experience.  Our journey is about to end, but with all the things we learned and all the knowledge we embraced, I can say simply that we are ready to  engage in our societies and make the change because we are here to change the world.

 

In Disneyland

In Disneyland

 

–Mansour

Believe in Your Dreams Even if They Seem Impossible to Happen

It all started 8 months ago (last October) when I woke up one morning, having that image/movie, that I had in my dream, repeating itself again and again in my mind.  Basically it was about seeing myself very happy walking with a group of people that I know in one of the well known streets in New York City…

Honestly I didn’t pay great attention to that dream specifically, since I really didn’t believe that what you see in your dreams will necessarily turn into a reality anyway.

That same dream just repeated itself 3 times in the same month! Every morning I woke up when having this dream and was like something odd was happening! Why this dream in particular?! Why New York City?!  And who are these group of people that I know but can’t already recognize in my dream?!

Three months later, and by pure chance, my English teacher at college told me about the MEPI leadership program! It was 2 weeks before the announced deadline she told me about it.

Honestly, I didn’t take the issue seriously at the beginning, since I already had my plan for summer; which was basically volunteering at the nearby elderly center and taking the summer courses at college.  Also, I was thinking in such a way like going to the states isn’t that easy thing especially in such competitive program where hundreds of applications are submitted annually and only 5 or 6 people are selected.

February the 2nd was a remarkable day!! My MEPI application was sent just 1 hour before the assigned deadline was over!!

Actually, I was not really taking the whole thing seriously. It was like, well, this is an opportunity that I can just get or simply miss! As simple as that, and in both cases, I’m perfectly fine!!

Days passed quickly, and I had almost forgotten about the application thing, all of a sudden, on April the 18th, my cellphone rang at 9:20 am!!

A serious strong voice came out of the phone: “Hello Adnan! This Mrs. Maureen from the US Consulate in Jerusalem with you. Congrats! You have been officially accepted in the MEPI program!!”

It was a turning point, I must admit!!

I started really thinking how this opportunity is going to change my life! How lucky I am and how I was fitting to this program’s criteria without even thinking about the matter a lot!!

So here I am! It’s July the 23rd!! We’ve just arrived to New York! It’s been an amazing stay in the US with one of the most lovely people on earth!!

Honestly, I was supposed to write my blog post 4 days ago!! But I’ve intentionally waited till I arrive to New York!! And our lovely Rachel (program coordinator) was like: “Adnan, sI have not yet received your blog post from Saturday.  Please turn it in by midnight tonight.

So right now in this exact moment, it’s about 1:30 am in the hotel room!  We have just arrived from Times Square and I can clearly and honestly tell that our walk as a MEPI group in the streets just around that square and stopping by the shops here and there were the exact real realization of my dream :)

I can tell that New York is much more beautiful in reality than it seemed to be in my dream :p! It’s an entirely different world!

Now I have a new belief in my life, which is: never ignore that voice or image that’s coming from your inside and repeating again and again!

I think a dream can change one’s life and from this moment on, a valuable guideline in my life is adopted by myself; listen to your gut and dreams!  Your subconscious might be related in some way to your bright future and never ever hesitate about it !! You will get there, definitely you will!!

In Times Square

In Times Square

 

The Innocence of a Child

 

Our bodies are starting to wear out. Our minds are imploding. We are in the midst of the wear and tear of the MEPI program. But our will remains as strong as it were the day we set foot on American soil. Our spirit remains relentless as we restlessly, and with a mild bitterness in our hearts, push through our last days of the program.

On Wednesday, July 23rd, we embarked on yet another community service excursion, as we washed the tiredness off our faces, took a long deep breath and made our way to the Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center. We were embraced with a warm welcome and a little introduction presentation on the Community Center, its history and what it does. A while after, in we walked on the most innocent beings you will ever set eyes on. Playful and joyful, I bluntly began to realize how the innocence of a child can save a life. How it can make someone’s day. The innocence of a child. It is almost overwhelming. It is almost mundane. Sadly, as we grow older, we forget what it means to be innocent. We forget how we used to see the world stripped of its flaws, positive, joyful. We get so caught up in our own malaise that we forget to see the greener side of the grass. Katy’s eyes as she looked up to me, asking me to take her for another plane ride(I was lifting her pretending she was a plane); that, is the innocence of a child.

For me, it is essential of a leader to have that sense of modesty, that humbleness you only see in the eyes of a child. Some may view it as a weakness, I believe it is quite the opposite.

All in all, I definitely learned a lot today, not that it is to my surprise! And the day was perfectly concluded with Dr. French’s cool lecture and activity on leadership and her amazingly useful presentation tips.

Tomorrow we leave for New York so.. yay!

 

–        Hameed

Home Far Away

It has been an amazing experience. The people I met, the things we do, and the laughter we created will always rest among our happiest memories. I believe that we as youth carry the energy and power to do anything in the world and we will achieve what we believe no matter what challenges we face. As we go through this journey to become leaders, we will bow to serve and reach out for our dreams.

After a long and exciting trip to San Diego in which we spent the best days of this program, we came back in an exhausting trip to catch up on sleep followed immediately by our intense academic assignments which reminded us of the purpose of being here and the part that will make us successful leaders.

Later on the day, we were taken by surprise to present our elevator speech. It felt like American idol auditions but it was really fun. Then we had a large dinner gathering which made me feel like I’m home again.

Breaking Fast Together

Breaking Fast Together

 

 

 

 

We ended our day by watching a funny movie with the Washington Fellows and enjoyed a day full of laughter and joy. This group is truly a family away from home.

Sarah Pic 2

Movie Night with the Washington Fellows

–Sarah

 

Everything to an End

‘What is common between the mountain and leadership’? This was the question that was asked during our leadership session in Disneyland. At that moment, the answer that crossed my mind was simply: it is so hard to claim it, but it is way harder to stay on top. Then as the activities went on the journey passed, I found myself wondering ‘why is this so?’ and what did Zoe mean when she said that ‘a chain is as strong as its weakest link’? Disneyland was not a mere day off for fun. It was the indeed the best opportunity to practice what leadership is all about. When we were taught that a good leader should know when to be a follower, or that s/he must have the ability to keep his/her group together, to work under pressure, to get out of their comfort zone, to persuade rather than force, to take into consideration the circumstances and the time limitations, we all were like; ‘yeah sure! We know all this’. But it was only in DisneyLand that we had to apply all this knowledge and test how much can we actually abide by it.

We had to stay together, we had to get the best of the day, we had to use the available resources when it comes to maps, batteries, food, time, money… and take into consideration the physical limits of one of us who had operations and cannot stand ‘California Scream’ yet is not fair to waste his time while we enjoy it. So we had to agree on a place to meet and for him to try another game then who ever finishes first wait for the other. A bigger challenge expressed itself when we did not all want the same game or the same lunchtime and we had to make up our minds without wasting time and energy.

After such a long day, the challenge was not over. For we had to pack and head to the airport in just few hours with no time to rest nor to sleep. In the plane on our way back, a man sat by my side reading on his eBook Reader where I caught a glance on what he was reading and the only sentence I remember seeing before falling asleep was ‘lead by example’. When I woke up, a new answer to that same question I started with pumped into my head: the similar thing between leadership and mountains is sometimes ‘to find the Courage and Curiosity-2 of the 6 Cs we learned- to claim it, but also to safely get down from the other side as well.’

Our journey to San Diego finally came to an end, which was double emotional, first ‘cause we all enjoyed our staying there, and secondly cause it was a reminder of what we will be experiencing leaving all this behind leaving back to our homes to finish our road of changing the world.

Sleep tight guys and remember: ‘to achieve what no one has… believe what no one does’ :D

Leadership Activities, Disneyland

Leadership Activities, Disneyland

Disney: Where Magic Happens

When I first got the email of my acceptance in MEPI and called my best friend who was the first to encourage me to apply in the first place, as she was a part of the 2013 MEPI, she said:   “your life is about to change.”

Surprisingly, when I went to the embassy I heard the same thing from all other MEPIs  and from the staff members  and that made me wonder: “what is so magical about this experience that could change me?”

Now after a month of being a part of the program I got the answer:  “a change happens when something big happens,“ as they say.

Getting the chance to be here, meeting this amazing staff and living with 22 MEPIs coming from different countries and different cultural backgrounds is BIG enough to make a change happen .

Disneyland in Our UD Shirts
Disneyland in Our UD Shirts

Today was my first visit to Disneyland, where all the magic happens: I saw magic , I felt it deep inside of me when I got back to the past and acted like a 5 year old kid again and all my friends and mentors were 5 years old again running and screaming and putting aside all the stress of life and getting over REALITY.

The beauty and the charm of the place remind me of how beautiful this universe can be.

I’ve never laughed this hard before, never had this much fun or smiled this big.  I was in the perfect place at the perfect time and with the perfect company .

Although I was very sick , I felt nothing because the feeling of happiness and joy was way bigger then the pain I had.

 

MICKEY
MICKEY

 

Now that the journey is about to end , I keep thinking thinking about the things I’ve learned from my friends, my mentors, the professors , the book I read, the children I met in my civic engagement and the guest speakers who were present during the program .

I’ve learned to never give up, to fight for what I want, to dream big, to act wise, to be open , to be ambitious and  to believe in myself .

They were all wrong , I didn’t change , I just got the perfect chance to discover myself more.

 

–Amal

Dare to Change the World

San Diego, California
Asma in San Diego, California

« Asma you should apply in the MEPI 2014 , go out from your comfort zone, this will be one of the best experiences in all your life , and I am sure that you will be accepted just don’t hesitate » That was the advice of my friend, MEPI alumni 2013 Souha Werghi, and that’s what I did.

I applied and I was accepted and here I am writing these lines from San Diego ,with the UD MEPI family.

GoPro #Selfies
GoPro #Selfies

But before telling you my MEPI story, let me introduce myself.  I am Asma Kaouech , 22 years old from Tunisia.  I am recently graduated in public law  and I am an activist in the Tunisian civil society and you can define me as a leader.

And it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to be a 2014 UD MEPI.

Country Presentations...TUNISIAAAAA
Country Presentations…TUNISIAAAAA

Asma Pic 4

We are now about three weeks away from the end of this adventure.  Let me rewind this back to the 24th of June when it all began.

At first, all the MEPIs were shy,  that was the first moment that almost of us meet each other.  But, now we know, love, care, help and support each other . Now we are a family.  We, UD MEPIs have spent great moments together.  Certainly there are huge differences between us.  We came from different countries and we don’t have the same ways of thinking.  We are really different and although have our differences, we made a success story.  In fact, the things that we have in common are more than things that separate us.  We are MEPIs because we are different, because we are complementary, because we love this world, and we want to make it a better place and to make a positive change.

Let me give you a little summary of what I have learned from this program.

First , show up: This means take the initiative and do not be shy and hesitant of your dreams. All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

Cecond , speaking up:  this means you should express your opinion.

Third, team up: because we can’t realize our success unless if we are united.

Fourth, make the world a better place

Then:  share your success and never give up.

And that’s what I am doing as a leader.

Civic Engagement at Kingswood Community Center
Civic Engagement at Kingswood Community Center

Today 16th July 2014, we went to the Joan B.Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice which is the nexus of practice, policy and scholarship in peace building and human rights. This was an unforgettable session; I learned great information from great people. I learned that Peace is not just a cause; it is an attitude, a daily lifestyle. Ms Diana Kutlow the IPJ senior program officer give me a lot of inspiration, she is an amazing lady that lives not only for her but for others. She has done a lot of training in conflict-affected countries bringing together civil society, governments, the security sector and human rights advocates to address the inequalities that fuel conflict and find paths to sustainable peace.

Joan B. Kroc Center for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego
Joan B. Kroc Center for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego

That visit to the Joan B.Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice inspired me a lot and gave me a big push to pursue my dream: changing the world.

All in all, I am a Tunisian young MEPI that walks with a purpose, that has a big dream and who is making her life a story worth telling.

UD MEPI , Dare to be first , Dare to be leader , Dare to change the world.

National Constitution Center Museum.  Taking the Oath of Office.
National Constitution Center Museum. Taking the Oath of Office.
Asma: Blue Hen Forever
Asma: Blue Hen Forever

 

–Asma

 

 

 

A Kid in a Candy Store

It’s finally here, the day we have been waiting for since the very first day we landed in the American fossil. We are going to the beautiful state of California! And DISNEYLAND!!! We got up early today because even though we had a 10 hour journey ahead of us we still have to take classes #NoComplaints. After we finished classes we headed back to the towers to load the vans and head to the airport. At that point you can see the excitement shining off our faces… until we boarded the plane and had to wait in 120 minutes of absolute boredom because the weather was too risky for us to take off. Because our flight got delayed for 2 hours that meant we probably are going to miss our connecting flight which made everyone more anxious. Fortunately we landed in Denver, Colorado just in time to run to the other aircraft but hey things can’t be that easy with the MEPIs.  As we boarded safely on the other plane, Ray realized that she forgot her carry on in the other plane so she had to rush back making us feel every nanosecond like if the plane was about to explode –which Shabeeb would absolutely love-. When we all boarded the other plane and made sure that everyone is safe and not missing their luggage or possibly limb we were relieved. A few hours later I peeked into the airplane ant-sized window to see the beauty of nature and culture mingled in a state called California. As we were landing our excitement took off at the overwhelming site of San Diego. Since San Diego’s airport looked like heaven to us we couldn’t imagine Disneyland making us feel any less than an obese kid who has been on a diet and finally got a day off in a candy shop. Literally.

-Nora