Week 2

A new week has passed, a very intense one. The last thing we did in Wake Forest University, was a game called “Humans vs Zombies”. The library, which is the biggest building I’ve ever been to, was ours and with only our Nerf guns to defend us, we had to fight against the evil lurking in the dark. A few people were selected as Zombies, they had to hunt down humans and catch them so they’d become zombies as well. Humans could only run or try to shoot them with Nerf guns. If hit, the zombie had to return to the beginning on the first floor. The Library has multiple floors and a basement, many rooms to get lost in and many opportunities to escape and hide, it was a very intense but fun game. The first week were lots of lectures, with this game a week full of fun and fast food commenced!

After the weekend, we left for Philadelphia where we visited Independence hall, where the constitution was signed, Benjamin Franklin’s printing press, Constitution Hall and a few museums. It was a very fun and exciting way to learn about American history and politics. We didn’t stay there for very long, on the 4th of July we left for Washington D.C. We celebrated Independence Day, which is the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as true Americans. Lots of flags, music and the biggest firework show I’ve ever seen in my life turned that day to one of the best ones I’ve ever had, the fact I could share this event with the best people I could wish for, only made it better. We visited the capitol, saw the white house and visited beautiful monuments.

Besides all fun, we, of course, learnt a lot as well. We went to the Department of State where we did a UN simulation. We all got a country, specific things to believe in and a little history. The situation sketched made you think of the Cold War. The two strongest nations where the USA and a fictional one called Malil, which I was part of and had lots of resemblance to the Soviet Union.

We did something similar in WFU, but the environment and the fact everyone was wearing formal clothing, made everybody way more serious. You became one with your role and completely started supporting the policies your country followed. Budan’s population was prosecuting a minority group. This was causing a huge refugee crisis destabilizing surrounded countries. Besides that, the USA wanted to pressure Budan to end their dictatorship and accept Human Rights, which both Budan and Malil doesn’t want. The fun part was that Budan’s government wanted that minority group back, since they were very wealthy. There were, of course, many other factions in the Simulation and tensions only rose. It was intense and difficult, but a lot of fun. I believe that we only would have needed 5 more minutes of negotiating to solve a lot of problems. Sadly, we ran out of time which was very frustrating, but frustration is inevitable in life and must be dealt with.

The most valuable lesson I learnt, is living with the fear and accepting the fact that if you fall asleep on the bus… You’ll be photographed and it will be awkward…


Week 1

So week 1 has almost reached it’s end, it’s the 1st of July 11:30 PM and finally I’ve found the time to actually write a blog!

Here’s a quick review about my week full of classes and fun.

First of all, let’s talk about my 27 hour sleepless trip to the states 🙂
My flight to Philadelphia got cancelled, so for a while we thought we’d be stuck in Amsterdam for a day. Luckily, Sarah, one of our mentors, could split us up in groups and sent us away with other flights!
I ended up with Milton(the Netherlands), Josipa (Austria) and Anindo (Finland).
Next to me on the plane was an American named Nichole. I was astonished of how friendly Americans are! She noticed it was my first flight (I absolutely didn’t look stressed or scared or anything…..) and asked if I was alright, then she started to comfort me and even gave me chewing gum to distract me! Michigan people are fantastic 😉
I landed in Canada, aaaand…. Everything went wrong in Toronto.
We lost our luggage,
had to wait for almost 35 minutes in some room to hear they had lost it and
another 15 minutes in Immigration
We would have missed our flight if it didn’t get delayed.
Once on the plane, they weren’t even sure it would take off…
We did meet Harry the Canadian. We talked while waiting for our luggage. He was with the Canadian air-force and told us his story and we told ours. These unexpected and short meetings are the best!
We arrived in Charlotte, couldn’t find our luggage again and went to the luggage service to ask. There they told us it was going to Greensboro. In Charlotte we finally regrouped with Sarah and her group so it was fine again!
In Greensboro, we received a warm welcome from the host families and some mentors. The best part was hearing my luggage was in AMSTERDAM! Either it got shipped back (Thanks Canada!) or never followed me. While waiting someone jumped in the conversation once I mentioned Murphy’s law and she made us laugh with how horrible her day was. Everything went wrong! Never I heard so much bad luck! I thought my day was bad until I heard her story! (And 3 of the participants stranded in Texas so it could be worse).
The first day was amazing, but exhausting. The climate, warm and humid, is new for me and hard to get used to. It was fun though, meeting so many people from so many different countries is, without doubt, to be called magical.
This week, we mainly got theoretical classes.
The first thing we did was a UN simulation. Everybody got a country, a function and the background of that country. Those countries were: North, South, East, West.
Some had economical issues, others were dictatorships (like the north) and others had tensions with each other. Your job was to solve those issues through any way possible (so through diplomacy or even war). It was really fun and intensive, we ended up with an economical and military alliance between all Democracies (South, East, West) and declared  war with the North, which was a dictatorship.
One of the courses we got, was debate class. We got a simple statement:”Should the UN establish a human right for birth control?” meaning that governments would be obligated to provide birth control to their people.
Some arguments were pro, like everyone should have the right to choose whenever or not they are ready to get a baby. Some were against, like is it fair to force an idea to a country and the classical “who’s gonna pay for it?” argument dropped as well.
The first part of the class was pure chaos. First about birth control, then about North Korea, then about the refugee crisis, but whether or not you were pro or contra the statements given…Jarred, our teacher, could always break down every argument you gave to support your opinion. He’s so good in it!
We had our laughs, but of course he wanted to teach us something and here’s what I learnt.
First of all, we got a definition of “Argumentation”.
Argumentation is the study of principles by which beliefs and actions are evaluated.
There are two main forms of argumentation. The first one is “argument as inquiry”, which can be defined as the process of discovering appropriate beliefs and actions. The second one is “argument as advocacy”, which can be defined as using language strategies to justify your beliefs and actions to others.
The coolest thing we’ve learnt is something called “flipping the warrant”. A good argument exists out of a claim, ground and warrant. A claim is your statement (e.g. immigration got to be decreased). Your ground is why you make such statement (e.g. they can take our job). A warrant is the connection between the claim and the ground. Your warrant could be something like “Those refugees will take all jobs our uneducated people should do, for less money, causing them to be homeless.”
Flipping your warrant means you agree with the ground to get another claim. You agree immigration can affect jobs, but your warrant could be something like “Immigrants increase demand for products creating jobs” instead, so you agree with the ground that there’s a connection between jobs and immigration, but change the claim to “there needs to be MORE immigration, not LESS.”
The next thing we learnt about argumentation, is the fallacies it can have. There are 10 lethal mistakes a debater can make.
1) Hasty generalization: A judgement made before the facts are in.
2) Post Hoc: Doing something because something else happened (so a shitty reaction, like making alcohol illegal because “an intoxicated driver got into a lethal accident” or something like that)
3)False analogy: No proof of a connection between the two things compared.
4) ad hominem attack: Against the man (not attacking the debater’s arguments, but the debater. E.g. Donald Trump calling Hillary ugly, so all  media attention will go to that fact instead.)
5) False dilemma: Argue that the situation is an either/or situation when there may be other options available.
6) Slippery slope: arguer predicts that the first step will lead to an undesirable spot. (E.g. if a rapper is allowed to rap about killing police, the next step may be someone rapping about making a a bomb and how to do it).
7) Begging the question: When the arguer makes a statement that assumes the question at hand has already been settled (e.g. imagine a club where no women are allowed and some journalist asks a member what their opinion is about this situation, an answer begging the question would be “right now, no women are allowed in the club”. This is, in no single way, an answer to the question but makes sure the arguer can’t be hold responsible for being pro or contra the fact that women should be allowed in the club).
8) straw person: cite an authority that concludes against you, but outlines your argument before attacking. (E.g. professor John starts an article with “There has been a lot of debate about why the Brexit is a good thing for the British economy”, but he ends up completely concluding the opposite thing. If a debater pro-Brexit only reads the first line and mentions professor John as an authority while trying to defend the Brexit, the debate is technically already lost).
9)two wrongs make a right: the arguer points to a flaw in the other person’s position rather than defend their own.
10) non sequitur:” It doesn’t follow”. Basic fallacy of irrelevance (e.g. son asks to go to a party, dad replies with “no you can’t, because 4 years ago you broke a window so you might do that again and get yourself into trouble.” The argument has nothing to do with the actual question).
The next course we got, was civic engagement.
Civic engagement means you do something to impact the world. The most valuable lesson we were learnt, was the fact that to impact the world you got to think on a small scale. If you are engaged to clean the ocean from plastic, just think small and clean a certain area. Without doubt, there are more people doing the same you do elsewhere and together, you are part of something big.
We saw how change really happens and were taught that if you want to start up a project, the first thing you got to do is observe others that already tried to improve them. This way, you can attempt to solve flaws + build up networks and connections.
We are tasked with finding  Civic Engagement project, which we’ll have to present in front of the group. This will be live streamed to the rest of the world.
Finally we got movie class, where we had to make our own movie. It isn’t finished yet, but it sure was fun until now!
The people here are great and very diverse. They come from Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Germany, The Netherlands, the UK, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey… all over the world! Even though we all are different, with different religions, cultures, nationalities… We all get along! In less than a week, we became a very close and tight family already!