Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Irfan Tahir
Interview with Irfan Tahir from Pakistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)
What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?
When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a one-year high school exchange program to the U.S. Since completing that program in 2017, I’ve been on a lookout for a program exactly like CIEE Work & Travel – something that will allow me to visit the beautiful country I adore, give me a chance to make new friends from around the world, and give me a taste of a real job. It’s fair to say that the Work & Travel USA program exceeded expectations! I didn’t know every single day in my host state of New York would be so eventful and exciting. Without a doubt, it was one of my best decisions to date.
What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?
The most important thing that I learned at the Summit was something that I have always been aware of, but it was the first time I saw it in action in such a close proximity – that we are all the same regardless of our differences! At the Summit, I saw an Armenian girl conversing with a Turkish man, and I saw my Serbian friends mingling with my Kosovan friend while we explored D.C. together. It was beautiful to experience such a profound acceptance of each other despite our ideological, political, and social differences.
How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?
I was deeply motivated by the passion of my fellow participants of the Summit. Just by hearing the fellows’ stories and their ideas on how to change their communities, I realized that they were the people who will one day become politicians, leaders and changemakers in their communities. They gave me hope and motivation to create a lasting impact in my community.
Where are you now? What are you doing now?
Currently, I am in my last year of university studying mechanical engineering in Ankara, Turkey. Thanks to my summer exchange in the U.S., I can’t stop dreaming about doing my graduate studies in the U.S. Hence, it’s busy season here applying for universities and sitting for an endless string of exams.
What makes you a changemaker?
I have been working with a Connecticut-based organization called Level Up Village since the past year as a graphic designer and social media manager. Level Up Village delivers STEM-based courses to students in the U.S. and around the world with a global aspect. So essentially, students in grades 3-6 learn new and exciting things about science and build projects with their global partners in another country. I want to find a way to bring this or a similar program to schools in Ankara. I believe this is one of the best ways we can initiate change in the community – by instilling a sense of global citizenship in the students at an early age.