by Devanshu Batra and Farhan Ali, CIEE Work & Travel USA and Civic Leadership Summit Alumni, 2018
My name is Devanshu Batra and I’m from India. I met Farhan the first day of the 2018 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit (CLS). I still cannot forget his reaction from that night. I remember that it was shocking and mind boggling for him when he learned that I could speak his mother tongue. When we met, we didn’t focus on the history of our two countries. We had so much in common, that it didn’t really come up. But our meeting and becoming friends was significant enough that I have told a couple of friends of mine that I do have a friend from Pakistan. Being a student in the international section of my university, I have had colleagues from Pakistan. But never a friend like this.
On the final night of CLS, Farhan addressed the entire group and talked about our country’s history of war with each other and that, even if this is our history, there we were meeting and becoming friends. At that point I had it clear in my mind that this relation is going a long way. That moment itself broke a lot of barriers. Meeting him was another tick mark in my head that we all are the same and want to achieve the same goal of peace and harmony amongst us. Talking regularly is a bit difficult for both of us but when we do, we catch up as much as we can. I would love to visit him in Pakistan, and I would surely take a picture once we both meet at the same time at Wagah Border (a famous border between India and Pakistan). If we can show to the world how and why our friendship was formed, it would be a great example for our two countries.
I would say CIEE to me was a blessing in disguise. Getting to travel in the U.S. and enjoy the rich culture independently was a motive of joining the Work & Travel USA program. But I never would have thought that I would meet someone like Farhan and that he would become part of my Work & Travel USA family. Because of this program, I came away with a different mindset of the U.S. and what is possible in the U.S. - and Farhan is a key element of that.
My name is Farhan Ali and I’m from Pakistan. I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Turkey after I received a full scholarship from the best university for economics in Turkey. I got to know about the CIEE Work & Travel USA program from my flat mate who was also planning to apply for the program. For me, this sounded like a great opportunity to meet new people, experience American culture, and have a job to earn money. Once I had applied for the program, my CIEE International Representative informed me about the Civic Leadership Summit. I read about it online and I decided to apply for it. And I was accepted.
I met Devanshu Batra on the very first day of the Summit and bonded immediately. Although I’ve had a couple of Indian friends before, my friendship with Devanshu was different. We not only shared the same national language (Urdu/Hindi), but we also spoke the same regional language which was very surprising (Sindhi). Prior to this experience, I never expected someone from India to speak Sindhi. He told me that a lot of people in India, mainly in the south, speak Sindhi and come from the same descendants as mine do. We got a chance to discuss movies, cricket, and the similarities in our cultures. Over the course of three days, we constantly stayed together which made us closer. This was the reason why I made my speech the final day of the Summit. I wanted to signify how opportunities like Work & Travel USA and the Civic Leadership Summit allow people from different countries to know about one another.
India and Pakistan have been at war for a long time. Our media doesn’t always show reality, only what suits them. And there is more to the story than that. While talking to Devanshu, we realized that our history books tell completely different stories in order for us to hate each other. Only by meeting in person did we see how these can both be misleading and doesn’t represent how we think or feel. I strongly support the idea of Exchange Programs. If people from different countries meet each other, they would realize that all of us are the same regardless of where we come from. Everyone wants to be loved. After coming back from the U.S., we have tried to stay in contact as much as possible. I was in Poland for six months and Devanshu decided to visit me from Romania. However, due to his exams, we couldn’t make a plan. I’m sure that we will meet very soon. Despite the recent tensions between India and Pakistan, we have talked as if nothing happened and have the same respect and love towards each other.
I want to use this opportunity to thank CIEE once again for this amazing platform where I got to meet Devanshu and so many other likeminded people.