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Young Leaders Engage in Civil Dialogue to Navigate Global Conflict at TFAS Prague


How do we create a brighter and more prosperous future around the globe? One hundred and fourteen young leaders from 36 countries assembled at the TFAS Prague program this summer to develop the intellectual and philosophical foundations, as well as personal connections, necessary to make a difference in the world. 

TFAS has equipped me with the necessary thinking skills that I can use to make better sense of what is going around me and internationally.” – Sarwar Efendi

Aaron Kasonde of Zambia and Aigerim Duisembay of Kazakhstan listen to a lecture at TFAS Prague.

Sarwar Efendi ’19, a student from Iraq, said spending his summer discussing controversial topics with a diverse cohort of classmates was a new and insightful experience.

“What is most shocking is that I find commonalities in thought from people continents away from my home country,” he said. “TFAS has equipped me with the necessary thinking skills that I can use to make better sense of what is going around me and internationally.”

Through a comprehensive curriculum on conflict management, political economy, diplomacy and liberty, students gained the knowledge and leadership experience necessary to become key players in solving the world’s future problems.

TFAS Professor Dr. Michael Collins lectures on “The Good Society.”

Returning TFAS professors brought these ideas to life through a team-taught course led by Dr. Michael Collins of Georgetown University; Dr. Adam Martin of Texas Tech University; Dr. Ibrahim Al-Marashi ’01 of California State University, San Marcos; and Dr. Joshua Mitchell of Georgetown University.

Paul Roberts ’19, a cadet at the United States Military Academy, said the lectures at TFAS Prague brought forth the most insightful discussions he had ever experienced in his academic career.

Dr. Al-Marashi provides background information and instructions at the Conflict Management Simulation.

“Having discussions from bright individuals from all over the world gives one the necessary points of view that lead to learning, as long as one’s mind is open,” Roberts said. “There is no other experience like TFAS that has provided me with this level of learning and adapting to opposing views from peers. The students here have knowledge and experience from their countries that is impossible to replicate.”

Throughout the program, thought leaders in economics, international affairs and government served as guest lecturers to share their insight and experience with the students.

Guests included Dr. Pavol Demeš, former minister of international relations of the Slovak Republic and civil society activistMs. Barbora Maronkova, director of NATO Information and Documentation Centre; Dr. Gnoncheh Tazmini of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the London Middle East Institute; and TFAS alumnus Vladimir Vaňo ’99 of the CentralNIC Group, PLC.

Samaya Samaha ’19 of Lebanon, Eman Al-Bahrani ’19 of Bahrain and Achraf Brahim ’19 of Tunisia at the Conflict Management Simulation

Outside of the classroom, students witnessed the vast and complex history of Europe through tours and extracurricular activities. Together they explored important historical sites in Prague including Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square and embarked on educational day trips to Terezin Concentration Camp and Vienna, Austria.

To complement their coursework, students also participated in the annual TFAS Conflict Management Simulation, held at the Senate of the Parliament of Czech Republic. Each summer, TFAS Prague hosts this Model UN-style diplomacy exercise that allows students to take the ideas they study in lectures and engage in rigorous dialogue surrounding a contentious issue facing the global community.

Yuliia Diadiuk ’19, Yuliana Fedoruk ’19 and Anastasiia Valiavko ’19 present art work representing their native country of Ukraine for Cultural Presentation Night.

This summer, the simulation focused on a mock Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting on “Reconciliation, Representation and Regional Security: Shaping the Future of Ukraine.” Students were divided into groups representing various countries and shared thoughtful and creative arguments to find peaceable solutions to issues surrounding energy, security and innovation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Theories, ideas, concepts of politics and economics are what we have studied, but implicitly we learned to be a better version of ourselves who will shape the future.” – Aruna Jantemirova

Aruna Jantemirova ’19, a student from Kazakhstan, said she enjoyed this aspect of the program because it allowed classmates to go beyond classroom discussions, explore real-world issues and learn to become better communicators and leaders.

“The OSCE simulation allowed us to apply our knowledge and to try to find a resolution for the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue,” said Jantemirova. “Each student in the class, on behalf of their country, could share their stories and situation, and that broadened my mind about the world. Theories, ideas, concepts of politics and economics are what we have studied, but implicitly we learned to be a better version of ourselves who will shape the future.”

Abdul Ali Ismailzada ’19 of Afghanistan, Maksad Parvonaev ’19 of Tajikistan and Jeffry Elias ’19 of Lebanon receive their certificates at the Closing Ceremony.

The students continued learning from and embracing new cultures during the annual “Cultural Presentation” event. This exciting evening was full of vibrant traditions and allowed students to teach their important shared history with peers. Students dressed in traditional attire and shared their cultures through song, dance and storytelling presentations.

Aruzhan Meirkhanova ’19 of Kazakhstan said the presentations were an important reminder that each of her peers were “not political, but cultural representatives” of their countries, a lesson she recalled from Dr. Al-Marashi’s teachings in class.

Dr. Leszek Balcerowicz speaks to TFAS students after receiving the TFAS Prague Freedom Award.

“It was awesome to see how all the students danced on one stage and supported each other,” Meirkhanova said. “TFAS Prague helped us create global networks, learn and practice leadership in such an interactive way. For me, this was one of the culminating moments of the program that strengthened our team spirit.”

On Aug. 2, the program officially concluded with a closing ceremony at the Charles University Karolinum. During the ceremony, TFAS was pleased to present Dr. Leszek Balcerowicz, Warsaw School of Economics professor, former deputy prime minister of Poland and former minister of finance, with the 2019 TFAS Prague Freedom Award. As the leading economic reformer of post-communist Poland, TFAS presented Balcerowicz with this honor for his many established economic policies that allowed the Polish people to experience economic advancement after the fall of communism and again after they entered the European Union.

Armenian students Maria Zakaryan, Anahit Hakobyan, Nensi Mkrtchyan and Arpine Nikolyan celebrate the completion of TFAS Prague at Closing Ceremony.

Balcerowicz served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony and shared his experiences on reforming the communist Polish economy to a free-market system. He explained the various challenges facing the Polish people as they tried to adapt hastily to free-market reforms and how a transparent rule of law system was required in order to protect the individual rights of the people.

To learn more about the TFAS Prague and other TFAS International Programs, please visit TFAS.org/IntlPrograms.

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