In 1991, one year before the European Economic Community was renamed the European Union, I represented my home country with five other delegates at an international youth village in Saitama, Japan. We realised there that, as human beings, we had a lot of similarities but also cultural differences that had to be understood and respected in order to build “one world together.” We met 281 representatives from around the world of which 29 were from Europe. Our interactions with them helped us gain a deep appreciation that, even though Europe was made up of many different states, with different beliefs, customs, languages and traditions, its peoples celebrated their shared identity as Europeans. From then on, I have always admired the EU‘s bold vision to bring about eternal peace between its member states and ultimately the rest of the world.
At that time, I was a member of an international non-profit organisation founded in Europe called AIESEC which is run by students. Its mission is to create values-based leaders and cultural understanding leading to world peace and the fulfilment of mankind’s potential. A year or so ago, I became so passionate about the influence that it had on my values as a youth, that I have become an active member again as a lifetime member of AIESEC Alumni International (http://alumnet.aiesec-alumni.org).
Furthermore, after striving to act as a bridge between cultures for the past 25 years in Japan, in order to reconnect with my idealist start to life, to get even more involved fostering international relations between peoples, I decided to visit the UN Society in Fukuoka to discuss my passion. There, I was encouraged to join the Fukuoka EU Association as it would provide me with a wide range of such opportunities.
Thankfully, over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to attend several such events that have helped broaden my perspective of the world we live in. My year of enlightenment last year began with a showcase of what the EU had on offer at the “Enjoy the EU in Fukuoka” event where I enjoyed EU-sourced food and wine with uplifting music while getting to know a number of the attendees.
There, I vividly recall a representative from the UK stall uttering nervously whether he would qualify for attendance this year. That being said, I was elated that he participated this year as well. As a European New Zealander with ancestors from Scandinavia, England, Ireland and Italy who braved the open sea for months to arrive safely in the “Land of the Long White Cloud,” multi-cultural Aotearoa (NZ), where over 200 ethnic groups live side-by-side, I have mixed feelings. Surely nations can maintain their cultural identity while keeping their doors open to neighbours in need? We are all members of one big family after all. Think globally, act locally. As they say in Europe, “In Varietate Concordia”, united in diversity. Long live the European Union! EU