International Students’ Meeting April 2015, Dornach

In the middle of April, four hundred Waldorf students from eleven different countries arrived on the Goetheanum hill for the 2015 International Students’ Meeting. The theme this year was ‘What Connects Us?’ and I couldn’t help thinking on the very first day, as I watched the Goetheanum fill with these students from near and far–Japan, Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, Estonia–how fitting this theme is for our time and for the purpose of this conference.

For the conference this year, the Youth Section worked together with seven students of the Waldorf SV Council from Germany, as well as with two Brazilian Waldorf graduates, who joined us closer to the time of the event. As the conference approached, and during the conference itself, many others stepped in to help where they were needed. Just watching from behind the scenes one could see how valuable and essential our connections with others are, how much is possible when we work together. And that was only behind the scenes.

Through four days of lectures, conversation groups, free time, workshops, performances, and music, the students experienced together a collective exploration of what connects us in life, what disconnects us, what this means, how we can build more possibilities to connect and take away those barriers that keep us from connecting.

After beginning each day with singing, we were presented with inspiring talks from our contributors, Dr. Ha Vinh Tho, Dr. Götz Werner, Nana Göbel, and Klaus-Peter Freitag, and Constanza Kaliks. Listening to these different speakers, I was struck by the same themes and points that came up in each talk. Of course each contributor prepared his or her talk with the question of ‘What Connects Us’ in mind, but this question could be interpreted in different ways and go in many directions. Somehow, though, each contributor brought similar questions from varied perspectives.

Monday and Tuesday evening, we were lucky to see performances from six of the classes who participated in the conference. From the Philippines to Brazil, Japan to Germany, we were taken on a journey of dances, songs, and stories brought from these different parts of the world. Four of the six classes presented eurythmy, yet no one performance was the same, as each group wove in different cultural elements and stories.The students blew me away with their courage to perform onstage in the Great Hall in front of four hundred people, presenting the wonderful offerings they spent so much time preparing. Most heartwarming of all was what happened at the end of each performance – I have never heard or felt the level of enthusiasm, support, and appreciation that these students gave to each other after a performance.

Since being here at the Goetheanum, I haven’t experienced a more lively or magical atmosphere than there was on the hill during this week. Each morning when I entered the Great Hall and looked up into the seats, I smiled to see this sacred historical space filled with the young, eager faces of these students, here to listen, ready for anything. At lunch and dinner, when I walked out of the Goetheanum toward the Schreinerei, my heart jumped with joy to see every inch of grass covered by groups of students sitting and talking with one another, bravely getting to know people from other parts of the world, taking the leap to find a common language even if both spoke only in halting English. Each day that passed I saw the groups mix more and more until you didn’t know where each came from–and it didn’t matter. The truth that these young, excited, wide-eyed and open-hearted teenagers so beautifully depicted in their relationship to one another, is the truth that we all have the possibility to connect with any other human being on the planet. Though I was merely a ‘behind-the-scenes’ participant, I was moved by what I saw during this week, and inspired by the optimism and curiosity of these young people. They proved that there are always more possibilities to connect us than barriers that disconnect us.

https://vimeo.com/128870804

Short video from the conference, shot by Jesse Osmer

Student Voices from ‘What Connects Us’

Noelle, Philippines:

Looking back, I would say it was such a wonderful experience as it was also my first time travelling abroad. To be so far away from home for the first time was slightly worrying for me, but upon arriving there I was immediately reassured with the welcoming atmosphere. To be able to meet such students from the same Waldorf education but from different cultures was such an enlightening experience for me. The lectures were really something else, they’ve allowed me to widen my point of view on things. I truly enjoyed the conversation groups as well. Hearing different intelligent opinions from others really got me thinking on a lot of things, but also conversing and getting to know them really helped me on the matter of making new friends as well.

Even as I write, the feeling is as vivid as I remember. I can’t fully express it, but perhaps the closest way for me to describe it would be genuine happiness. And I know it will be a feeling for me to remember and carry on into the future.

Martha Tan C., Manila Waldorf School, Philippines:

There are many grains of sand on a beach, many leaves on trees, there are millions of forms of gas in the sky we call stars, as there are moments in time we like to call memories. We are the creators of these memories and we are those who have the honour of living in those moments. I was one of the few, few hundreds, that was lucky enough to be part of the youth conference, to be able to gain and form such amazing connections with people from so many different walks of life and cultures and sets of eyes and voices. I had some of the most entertaining, mind grappling and never-ending conversations I’ve ever had, so far. Not only that, it was such an amazing feeling to be with so many people from all over the world, to be with strangers, and yet feel as if there were no boundaries, just this openness and this warmth… We are those who have eyes open and have yet to go about our lives with the curiosity for what may be, with the courage to make our visions of tomorrow real.

Samantha, Phillipines:
There we were – 425 individuals from over 10 countries, coming together in this unfamiliar place with our own stories to share. It was terrifying at first – not knowing what to expect or what to say and do – but soon enough my fear turned into excitement; I realized that with only 4-5 days with everyone in the conference, each day and night – with all the singing, dancing, conversations and games – was a gift, and as I went to bed I looked forward to what the next day would bring.The whole experience was AMAZING, and it was so nice to see people with different stories, personalities, cultures and even speaking different languages, all connecting and finding a friend in each other. Through the days, despite the long walk to the bunker or having only one shower for a hundred-or-more people, this unfamiliar place soon turned into Home and the unfamiliar faces soon turned into family. At the end of the conference I knew that these 5 days (though it was too short a time for everyone) and the memories and friends we made was worth it and will always be worth remembering.