Inspiring YOUth Team
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WYAcademy: Tell us a little bit about your background...
Andrea: I grew up in Belgium, then I decided that I wanted to go abroad to study University, and I went to Delft University, which is an engineering University in the Netherlands, after like a year and a half, I ran away because it was not my environment, and at that time I decided that I never wanted to get back to University, because I thought it was not for me. So I started working as a journalist for 6 months, and I realized I liked social sciences, so I went back to University, but this time at Erasmus University where I completed my bachelors degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences; I got a mayor in International Relations, Political Science and international law, so, it is a double mayor. I’m also certified as a profesional yoga teacher, which I love a lot. I also love photography, and Persian calligraphy.
WYAcademy: Apart from your background, who is really Andrea?
Andrea: It is a hard question, when you don’t want to go for the typical answers. Andrea is someone that is very serious but very creative at the same time, she is currently in the process of getting her serious side a little aside and get out the creative side as much as possible. She is a person that likes to take risks, without being too reckless, and above all, she is brave enough to take new opportunities that not everyone would.
WYAcademy: Which are the milestones that have made you who you are?
Andrea: The first one is definitely when I decided that I was no longer going to study engineering, because that was something that I worked towards for years, because I was very determined to be one of the women in Science and encourage other girls to pursue the same path. When I discovered it wasn’t for me because it was not making me any happier, it was definitely a breaking point because I was already half way through, and I didn’t have any idea of what I was going to do, what I liked, how I was going to make money, etc. So it was definitely a big point because there was family disappointment, and suddenly, I was two years behind from my friends from high school. So at this point, I really needed to do an introspection of what did I really wanted; and this lead me to the University I graduated from, and of course, my interest in the Middle East and Middle Asia, topics that I would have never considered if I hadn’t change that much.
And another important point is when I met my current boyfriend, because it made me realized that it was ok ok to open up to people in a serious way. Like I didn’t need to leave everything behind, and move from one place to another constantly, starting somewhere new all over again, because that meant that I could build my life with this other person, and even though it was going to be a whole different kind of experience, it was also going to be a very important one. This also meant that I could do things with someone else, without losing who I was as a person, and it slowed me down a lot, because I was never living the moment, I was always thinking about what I was going to do next.
WYAcademy: What are the things that make you feel proud of yourself?
Andrea: One is that I’m not afraid to say NO to people, and I’m very grateful to my family for that, specially to my mom because she is like that. Don’t be afraid to disagree, speak up your mind, because at the end of the day you need to live your life without expecting some other people’s approval.
The second one is still a process, because it is a change of mindset in a sense that, in the western culture, (I’m going to generalice on this), there is this idea that you always have to excel at everything, be the best, stand out in an application for a job; everything is so competitive in a way. You are judge by the grades you get, not for who you are as a person, and the fact that my classmates become my competitors in that dream job that we all want, destroys the idea of community, and solidarity. So, I’m trying to bring a little bit more in the professional life the feeling of solidarity, and communality; engage everyone and work together towards the same goal. And I find that the World Youth Academy is doing a great job on building that mindset as well.
WYAcademy: What would you tell youngsters?
Andrea: -“Speak through your values because they will guide you right.” – because that is exactly how you will always stay true to yourself.
-Learn languages, because they will get you everywhere, and don’t learn the typical languages, try thinking outside the box. Learning languages will certainly teach you about culture, history, psychology, and above all, you learn to appreciate things in other people.
-What you study it doesn’t necessarily need to be your career path, and you shouldn’t attach a hierarchical value to the studies that you do, because the Prime Minister of any country is as important as the garbage man, because of many different reasons.
Andrea: First I would recommend to have an experience taking a course or summit because it gives you a better idea of what the Academy is doing, which is empowering youth in different ways. It also teaches you things that you wouldn’t learn at university, it gives you a full immersion in the world of foreign policy and security. Then I would encourage youngsters to take the internship because it is also a great opportunity to get knowledge of certain topics and work experience in a great working environment.
Alejandra Coronel MengelleInspiring YOUth Team
Alejandra was born and raced in Mexico. She holds a bachelors degree in International Affairs from Universidad Iberoamericana, and she is currently studying a postgraduate course in International and National Security from National Autonomous University of México (UNAM). Ale enjoys learning and researching about International Security, and Middle East topics.