The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Representatives attend conference abroad

Ten St. John’s students who travelled to Vietnam for the International Peace and Development Conference during the winter break held a two hour student symposium about their trip on Feb. 11.

At the symposium the students ambassadors spoke about their experiences during the trip.

Many St. John’s students, parents, and alumnus were present Tuesday night to hear the stories and see a slide show of pictures from the trip.

The students that went to Vietnam were chosen to represent St. John’s and the United States. These students were Tessa Lewis, Rachelle Granada, Alejandra Salazar, Victoria Forte, Eric Hagen, Robert Ribera, Kyesha Pratt, Allison Heckel, Joshua Marino and Elizabeth Polizzi.

According to Ruth De Paula, the director of International Programs and Study Abroad, each of the students that were chosen had very different backgrounds, in order to have a diversity of experiences.

Applications for the conference were available on the Internet via the St. John’s website. About 40 students applied but only 10 were able to go due to funding. The students that applied had to fill out an extensive application as well as go through an interview process.

“The students chosen for the trip went through an extensive selection process,” De Paula said.

Jerry Brooker, an alumni of St. John’s University played a major part in making the trip to Vietnam possible for the students.

During the symposium the students discussed the different cultural and educational experiences they had throughout the trip.

“The conference was a magical life-changing experience for everyone involved,” said Frank Biafora, associate dean of St. John’s College. “Everyone who came back was blown away.

“The entire conference was actually his [Brooker] idea,” Biafora said. “It was his idea to organize a trip and take students to another country. He wanted to be able to discuss peace through the eyes of young people.”

The event was sponsored by St. John’s University and the Institute for International Relations. The purpose of the International Peace and Development Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam was to interact with the younger generation of Vietnamese. They were given the opportunity to discuss issues involving peace in Vietnam.

During the trip the students were able to attend various seminars that dealt with the different problems concerning the country of Vietnam.

At the conference, the students discussed many issues that affect Vietnam today including waste management, property reduction, religion and healthcare.

During the official conference the student ambassadors listened to guest speakers who discussed topics such as United States and Vietnam relations and trade agreements.

On the fifth day, the participants were broken up into groups. Each group consisted of American and Vietnamese students and were given the opportunity to give a one-hour speech on a specific topic. The topics included what the students had been discussing throughout the week.

In addition to attending seminars and giving speeches, student ambassadors visited many historical sites in Vietnam including the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, the Temple of Literature and a jailhouse where prisoners of war from the Vietnam conflict had once been kept.

The students teamed up with Vietnamese students to travel around and learn as much as possible about the Vietnamese culture.

The students traveled around on mopeds, which is a popular method of transportation in Vietnam.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, according to student ambassador Marino. “The culture and economy of Vietnam is very different from the United States.”

According to Biafora, there are two other similar conferences being proposed.

“We are trying to put together a proposal to bring 10 Vietnamese students to St. John’s in the next year,” he said. “We are also trying to replicate this conference in another country.”

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