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Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Javed Shadan

Interview with Javed Shadan from Afghanistan (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015)

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My name is Javed Shadan. I was born in Afghanistan but spent most of my adult life in Turkey. I graduated from Karadeniz Technical University of Turkey with a degree in Civil Engineering. I am currently in Toronto, Canada and a step closer to starting my master’s degree. I am also a member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in California.

What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in United States?

I grew up in Afghanistan, a country where multi-ethnic cultural differences are a big tension. It was always a big question for me, why diversity can be the power of most countries but not in Afghanistan. The curiosity and wish of having a diverse-united country motivated me to go and find an answer for my question by visiting a multi-cultural country like the United States. Besides, I believed that when I experience a different culture through educational and cultural exchange, I would gain a deeper understanding of myself and those around me – deepening my knowledge of foreign cultures, strengthening international relations, and, the most important of all, making a personal development. I then made my way to the United States in 2015 to participate in the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?

I heard the ideas and thoughts from leading experts in the summit that increased my leadership abilities. It allowed me to sharpen and gain new skills. Later, when I was back at school in Turkey, I found my skills much useful for my activities in university. In 2016 and 2017, I was chosen as the team captain for Karadeniz Technical University at the Seismic Design Competition that was held in San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, respectively. The leadership skills I learnt at the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit helped me gain a great achievement for my university at the competitions.

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How has the civic leadership summit impacted your life?

When I compare my present time to the years before my participation to Civic Leadership Summit, I feel a huge positive change in myself. I feel like I don’t just belong to the country I was born, I am now a citizen of the world. I am now working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make a difference and be a changemaker in the world.

What makes you a changemaker?

Afghanistan’s turbulent modern history has been shaped by decades of internal conflicts and extreme natural disasters. These years of war and severe poverty, combined with poor security, have left a huge knowledge gap for the children and youth in Afghanistan. Children in rural areas have been kept far from schools due to the lack of educational facilities. They study in open-air classes with no access to libraries. It is a matter of grave concern that Afghanistan is lagging behind in the education sector and exposes many children to various forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Saving the children in Afghanistan by making schools, libraries, and re-opening schools in rural areas with campaigning across the country is one of my most important plans that I want to pursue by starting a volunteer organization after I complete my graduate school.

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