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After 18 hours of travel (and some lost luggage), I have arrived in Basel, Switzerland. The beauty of this city is breathtaking, and the people could not be more gracious. You find yourself constantly walking through the streets, taking in all the amazing sights, sounds, and smells of the city; as you might imagine, with all the distractions, it takes me a while to find myself to the conference site.
However, once I finally do arrive at the University of Basel, site of the IPPNW 2010 World Congress, I am immediately surrounded by students from all over the world, each smiling and greeting one another in more languages and dialects than the human ear can decipher (at least this human ear...).
Because I have arrived late, I miss the opening ceremonies, and instead direct myself to a student led workshop entitled “Towards a World Without Landmines”. The workshop is lead by two physicians- one from Egypt and one from Iran. As a group, we talk about the health impacts of land mines that still populate many areas of the world. The dangers of these weapons is retold once every 22 minutes, when another person somewhere in the world is injured as a result of stepping on an old land mine. After some more discussion, we decide as a group to develop a program in which medical students from around the world will be able to visit a hospital that assists victims of land mines. The program idea will be presented at the Main Congress in the next few days.
The Student Carnival takes place tonight. At this signature IPPNW Student Congress event, students from all over the world dress in their native clothing, and bring food that is representative of some aspect of their culture. Being true to American form, I wear jeans and a polo, and bring Oreo cookies to share (I get zero points for originality). The Carnival is unlike anything that I have ever been part of- a gathering of global students, driven by the same passion to make the world a safer and better place for all, enjoying each other’s company and sampling the delicious food of each other’s culture. Somewhere between eating the cheese and chocolate of Switzerland, the cornbread from the United States, the figs from Egypt, and the pistachio nuts from Iran, it occurs to me that not only is peace possible with our generation, but that our generation is responsible for making sure that we see that dream come to fruition. We have shown tonight that the politics of our leaders will not define us; we are a united front of medical students and doctors in training, and, together, we take one step closer to creating a more peaceful and secure world.