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Inspiring YOUth Team

WYAcademy: Describe what you do briefly (your company/your organization/ your job)

Axel: I am Axel, 23 years old and in the last year of my studies. Next to that I currently volunteer as the acting editor-in-chief of the World Youth Academy. I joined the academy about a year ago as a freelance blog contributor and slowly worked my way up.

WYAcademy: Tell us a brief story of how you ended up doing what you are currently doing?

Axel: I am currently pursuing a Master’s double degree in Global Studies. I worked hard during my Bachelor’s and graduated with honors from my major in political science. Since I had the opportunity to work for different professors and was granted an internship in a research institute during that time, which I enjoyed a lot, I knew I wanted to stay in the field. There was not that one dream job that I was chasing, and there still is not. But I knew I wanted to stick to my guns and go for something closely related to International Relations. I applied for different Master programs and was very lucky to get accepted to all of them. That very privileged situation allowed me to choose by myself. So it came down to a very specialized program in Peace and Conflict Studies which rationally to me seemed like the better fit and that was my number one priority in the first place, and the one in Global Studies. I was taking some days to decide and eventually went for the latter option, despite it being my plan B at first. I knew the Peace and Conflict Studies program would have been the easier way, I had experience in that field before from my undergraduate and one of my previous jobs. And I knew I would like it, but I doubted if it would truly satisfy me.

I once heard somebody saying that if you read three books on a certain topic, you gather more knowledge in that topic than 99% of humankind. But to become the smartest one in that field, even reading all books in the world might not be enough. I do not know if that is true but it points to a very valid point, you have to decide wisely whether to go for the niche, potentially becoming an expert in your field outshining everyone else, or whether to accept you will not be the best and brightest in one field, but having solid skills in many fields.

There is no doubt that both ways are tough and full of obstacles and probably there is no royal road to making that decision. But I always seek the challenge and am genuinely intrigued by a well-considered degree of risk. So, I turned down the amazing offer from that British university for Peace and Conflict Studies and went for Global Studies. I was in Belgium for a year and if the pandemic had not kicked in, I would now be in Australia. Circumstances have it I ended up continuing my studies at a Danish university, while unfortunately having to study remotely at the moment. But nonetheless I learn so much new stuff, meet great people from all over the world and have classes in economics, philosophy, anthropology, European studies, International Relations, history, law, political science, development studies, you name it.

Of course, not everything is perfect. I will most likely not graduate as top of my class like in my undergrad and it might even be harder to get a job with such a broad skill set. But there we have the challenge again. Some say ‘no risk, no fun’, others ‘no pain, no gain’. And while I want to be neither reckless nor overly naïve, there is some truth to both sayings.

WYAcademy: How is a person that inspires you and why?

AxelThat is a really good question. I would say in general, a person that I admire is a knowledgeable, determined, but very humble person. I generally hate arrogance and whenever I witness instances when I am arrogant myself, I try very hard not to be like that ever again. And people that I look up to are very successful in that. So, they might not be always righteous, or always as down-to-earth as they themselves want to be. But they never stop questioning themselves, and never quit on making an effort to change for the better. In genuinely conceding their mistakes, they are improving. They encounter everybody on an equal footing, no matter if they talk to their children, their boss, or a stranger on the street. They simply become better versions of themselves every day. And the motivation comes from within them. They do not care too much about social appropriateness or being fancy. They do what they feel is right and do not take themselves too serious in a world that makes us face so many restraints already. I would like to be like these people. Cause they have a positive impact on the people around them. And little by little, they change the world for the better.

WYAcademy: If you could describe yourself by an anecdote, which one would it be?

Axel: When I finished school, I wanted to go abroad. I spent months applying, planning, and thinking about everything. But eventually it did not work out. So, I decided to start studying right away. Application deadlines for most universities had already expired. But I knew what I wanted, and I had not forgotten about where and how to get it. So, I decided to go for a program in Arabic studies. Some days later, my dad told me about the reactions of his friends and colleagues when he told them about my plans. They were shaking their heads and laughed, super sure I would never manage to even make it through the first semester. “What the hell does he want to do with that?”, “He is going to quit the first day”, those were their reactions from how my dad told me. And most of my family and friends thought they same, though most of them did not dare to put it that bluntly.

When the studies started, it turned out I was not really gifted in Arabic indeed. But there was an extra class, by a tutor, Friday morning, every week. My friends and fellow students, including those from that study program, usually went out every Thursday night, living the good life and making most of their study days. Most did not have class on Fridays, and if so, nobody went anyway. And since in non-corona times I am not a couch potato, I often joined in, too. But I always made sure I would make it for that class on Friday morning. And I did, every single time. There were days when it was only the tutor and me, one-and-one. Once, even the tutor himself did not make it because he went partying the other night.

Eventually, I graduated from the three-year program after two years already. I was the first of my cohort out of which almost two thirds had already opted out by then while others are still studying today. I was not top of my class and I do not want to imply that I was performing super well. But I had my priorities straight right from the start. I go the extra mile if I really want something to happen.

WYAcademy: What do you think is one of the biggest issues that should be sorted out first worldwide?

AxelWell, I do not want to come across as the ultimate pessimist here, but in fact I think the biggest issue is us, the humans. There are way too many people out there who are too selfish and too short-sighted. I might not be any better and I might not have the right to judge, but I am wondering though where did our sense for belonging and togetherness go? I do not know about you but it I was the happiest child back in the days when Santa came and gave me presents on Christmas eve. And what a joy is it to me now, that Santa is not around anymore, unfortunately, to give presents to my family and friends. They were thinking of me, now I am thinking of them. Why is that not working everywhere?

What is so hard about getting things done together? What is the difference between men and women, black and white, young and old? I do not see one, we are all human beings after all, aren’t we? Where is the respect? Our world is so complex already, why do we make it even harder by intriguing and lying? We know what the problems are so why don’t we get down to it all together? If you do not understand how to do something, let me help you. And please do help me if I am stuck and I need a hand.

I am no big fan of hollow sayings, but teamwork can indeed make the dream work. And love is the only thing that grows when shared. So, a little respect and communal thinking will not kill our human species. But the path of selfishness and bigotry and hate we are on at the moment might.

WYAcademy: What would you recommend to other people that want to start making a change in their community, city, country, world?

Axel: Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Be yourself and most importantly be honest to yourself. Do not play a role others expect you to fulfil. You yourself know best what you can do and how you can do it.

So, if you want to make a change for the better, and I very very much encourage you to do so, do what you can do best. If you understand complex causalities, go to university and study hard to become an excellent scholar. If you are great in explaining, become a teacher and hand on your knowledge to the next generation. If you love graphic design, join a company that serves a good cause to contribute with your skills. Whatever your skills are and however small and unimportant they may seem to you, they are not. You will not change the world with what you are doing. But you will have a positive impact on the people around you and all together the joint actions will change the world, step by step.

I believe I am not the worst in writing and thinking outside the box, so I publish pieces that I hope others to read and think about what I am saying. And if only one person acts in a better way after that, it had an impact already.

WYAcademy: .

Axel: The academy gives me the opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally. It started with a wonderful experience in Madrid last October where I met many people that turned from strangers to friends so quickly. Among them were Sara and Tijana, who were both active for the academy’s blog and saw my potential. A potential I guess I had not even seen myself that clearly. Still on the first day they asked me if I wanted to contribute to the blog. Two months and another academy’s summit in Vienna later I was on the team. I learned a lot from Sara, Tijana, and the other people who were with the academy back then. Now I have a new role and bear far more responsibilities, but I keep learning from the people that surround me. The people I met within and around the academy did and do a great job. And I hope that one day, when I move on to a new adventure, all these strangers that became friends can say the say about me.

Alejandra Coronel Mengelle

Alejandra Coronel Mengelle

Inspiring YOUth Team

Alejandra was born and raised in Mexico. She holds a bachelors degree in International Affairs from Universidad Iberoamericana, and she is currently studying a diploma in International and National Security from the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM). Ale enjoys learning and researching about International Security, and Middle East topics.

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The WYAcademy aims at supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In its strive as an independent, non-political, non-UN affiliated organization, the Academy motivates the visionaries and young changemakers from all over the world who attend its seminars to work towards these goals.

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