Guest blog: ‘Laughter sounds the same in any language’

Aspiring journalist Kate Whitaker (16) from Colne.'Photo Ben Parsons

Aspiring journalist Kate Whitaker (16) from Colne.'Photo Ben Parsons

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Colne resident and aspiring journalist Kate Whitaker (16) shares her experience of the International Youth Conference in Germany...

Diversity, culture, religion, traditions and friendship – the International Youth Conference took place on August 14th to August 21st, and saw representatives from 12 different countries join together in Marl, Germany to promote tolerance, solidarity and mutual comprehension.

Young people aged 16-19 travelled to this event from England, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Morocco, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Russia, Senegal and Turkey.

As a citizen of Pendle, Marl’s twin town, I was lucky enough to represent England, joining other Pendle representatives, Mohammed Zubair Bashir (18), Awais Hussain (19) and Connor Smith (19). Having just finished university, Rebecca Robertson (21) was asked to be our group leader and did a spectacular job.

Laughter is the one thing that sounds the same in every language. The kindness of everyone was both comforting and welcoming. Sharing a room with three young girls from Bitterfeld, Southern Germany; Anna, Katrin and Samantha provided endless joy all week. In fact, the very second we were introduced, Katrin pulled a box of truffles out of her back, exclaiming “for you!”

International night remained the main event of the week, as the traditions of every country were pulled together in the three hour long production, “The Spectacle of Cultures”. This insightful event saw all participants perform songs, dances, poems and rituals in front of official guests and members of the public.

Simple expressions were learnt by everyone, in numerous different languages. There’s something so touching about six different nationalities becoming close and sitting together at a table learning Arabic. Alaa Mustafa (19) from Palestine is bilingual, and like every participant, can speak fluent English.

She effortlessly writes our names in Arabic so we can learn them, as Lilly Aimee (18) admires “it’s beautiful – your writing is like a drawing.”

Bus rides were another highlight of the week. On one occasion, the entire coach belted out We Will Rock You, whilst people tapped their feet, knocked on windows and drummed on the roof.

It created such an ambience that can only be described as magical. On quieter bus rides, friends I had made from Germany and Morocco would tell me about life in other continents. Lia Bee (18) from Marl has studied natural sciences for a year in England, whilst Rabea Effelsburg (17) has travelled across the border on her own to do work experience in Belgium. Every participant greatly inspired me, through their ambition and determination to be the very best they can be.

I have been honored to take part in such a magnificent event. We should never judge people based on their background – it is their individuality which makes them who they are.

We may come from different places and speak in different tongues, but our hearts beat as one.

Greatness can be achieved by anyone, no matter what age, religion or society they come from. There is a whole world out there – and success can be achieved anywhere on it.