Nearly 500 outstanding students from all around the world gathered in Stockholm this weekend for the SI NFGL Kickoff event.
“The world is facing many challenges now, national, regional, and global,” said Monika Wirkkala, head of the Talent Mobility unit at the Swedish Institute, at the opening of the event.
“You are here in Sweden to grasp those challenges, and to contribute to the bigger picture. You are here because you were chosen as the best of the best, from thousands of applicants. You can bring real change back to your countries.”
The all-day event for new SI NFGL scholars was held at the Stockholm City Conference Centre in the heart of the city.
The day began with an inspiring seminar by entrepreneur Soledad Piñero Misa, Founder of Retoy.
She focused on the theme of play, and what play actually means. Some NFGL students said that play, for them, means learning. Others said it means getting to know each other. One student added that it’s the opportunity to be a child, and another said it’s being able to let your imagination flow and not be afraid of failure.
For Piñero Misa, it’s doing what she loves. She runs the company Retoy, which helps recycle used toys so other children can enjoy them, instead of letting them go to waste.
She also spoke about passion, human rights, and collaborating.
“It’s good to feel that anything is possible, and also to have faith in human values, in human rights, and in harmony,” she said.
She quoted one of her mentors, choreographer Alonso King, about dance, honesty, and beauty.
“We make change by doing little things, each day, with a lot of love.”
The new students then received an introduction to the structure and purpose of local NFGL networks.
After a delicious vegetarian lunch, the sessions resumed. The afternoon began with a presentation by intercultural communications expert John Alexander, who first warmed up the audience with several snow-filled images of Swedish winter, drawing lots of laughter and gasps from the audience.
He also presented several different maps, draw up from different perspectives, making the point that maps are simply “stories” — a way of explaining the world — which often include what he called “northern hemisphere chauvinism”.
“There are many different ways of looking at the world,” he explained. “We are always working from a certain perspective.”
He then went on to explore what we mean when people say “Swedish values”, bringing up examples such as punctuality, transparency, and 'lagom'.
Alexander concluded the interactive session by looking at different cultures in comparison using the framework of high context and low context communication habits.
“Often untranslatable words give us the most useful cultural insights,” he said, before presenting words from several languages that don't have an equivalent in other other.
Following the afternoon fika, the Improvisation Studio Stockholm took the stage, treating the crowd to a funny, if not awkward, and revealing session using improvisational theatre to explore the different ways people communicate and interact.
“You've got to trust your imagination, because that's all you've got,” explained one of the actors.
What were your favourite moments from the kickoff? Share in the comments below!