An American, a Russian, and an Iraqi walk into a bar…

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Meredith Forsyth

Georgetown University Exchange Student, Meredith Forsyth, shares her experiences so far at GSD and living in the middle of Europe.

An American, a Russian, and an Iraqi walk into a bar…

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? My experience thus far as an exchange student at GSD has actually sounded much like this. Let me explain:

When I boarded my one-way flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, a myriad of thoughts were crossing my mind. The prospect of spending over three months in another country, far from family and friends, with a six-hour time difference to overcome, seemed altogether daunting and immensely intimidating. I thought: How will I adjust? Will I be able to make friends? Will I miss home too much? All the same, I was enthralled with the idea of living and learning in the heart of Europe, in a city home to both the United Nations and, more importantly, lots and lots of melted cheese.

My worries were assuaged by this thought, and I found comfort in the feeling that despite the challenges ahead, this was where I was meant to be. While my heart remained with my loved ones at home, my mind fixed on imagining what adventures would await me in my new home—Geneva.

Now, halfway through my semester in Geneva, I am amazed by how naïve I was when I boarded that flight. Wrongly, I had thought that, as an international politics student at Georgetown, I already had a quite nuanced worldview and a well-rounded education. My time thus far at GSD, however, has completely reshaped those assumptions and my experience has far surpassed my expectations. Never would I have imagined finding myself running to the UN after class to see Kofi Annan speak or, on the other hand, rushing to the airport after class to catch a spontaneous flight to Barcelona. Nor would I have expected to befriend and get to know my fellow students who hail from each corner of the globe—from Kenya to Kyrgyzstan. Most of all, I hardly anticipated to learn more about the world and my place in it than I ever imagined was possible in the two short months I’ve been here.

In this time, I’ve discovered that something truly magical is in the air at GSD. Gathering around the conference table in the classroom, representing a dozen different countries, my fellow students and I form a microcosm of the world: Each with his or her own point of view, we can discuss and debate and learn from one another freely—truly putting diplomacy into practice.

Whether we’re roaming the halls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or simply hanging in a local pub on Friday night, I’ve learned so much from my friends here. I’m certain that the memories we’ve made in just two months are enough to last a lifetime, and the lessons I’ve learned will continue to shape my perspective at home.

Although we may resemble clichéd joke, I just can’t wait see what the punch line has in store.

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