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Uploaded on Oct 23, 2011
Digital story by Katie Economidou. Created July 2011, Nicosia Cyprus, as part of activities reflecting on the Cyprus Fulbright Commission's 50th Anniversary in 2012: "Fulbright Changes Lives." -------------
Fulbright was a moment in my life that changed the course of my history on earth twice.
I was already 18 and finished high school when I left to Greece to attend college. I had a good time there, but I knew that I wanted more.
During my Christmas holiday in Cyprus that year, I found out about the scholarships at the American University of Beirut. I sat for the exam and went on for an interview. I got the scholarship for a BA in Political Science and Public Administration.
I lived in Beirut during the years of war. I saw the world from the reverse. No more comfort, no more relaxed life. I was in a good school and despite the unstable political situation, I benefited from the academic life. I made friends, some I keep until today. I traveled all around Lebanon, from north to south, despite the snipers hiding in the streets and the violence that was breaking out unexpectedly. I learned the language and was welcomed in the different areas and homes I have visited. If it wasn't for Fulbright, probably I would have never had the chance to higher education.
Fulbright came into my life for the second time when I got a scholarship for a postgraduate course in the U.S., in Conflict Resolution and Human Resource Development. I left behind my two daughters (6 years and 9 months old at the time), to follow my dream for studies in the States. I traveled around the country; I educated myself in libraries, museums and galleries, concerts and theatres. I admired the aesthetic of big cities combined in a unique way with the natural environment, preserving the colors of the different seasons all year round.
The course changed my perspective on political conflicts and especially the political situation in my home country. Upon my return to Cyprus, I undertook a lot of activities and trained and facilitated hundreds of people in bicommunal mixed groups. I initiated groups of women, youth, professionals and a choir; I was moving back and forth, allover the island, engaged into more and more initiatives, all voluntarily. I was being transformed again. The "enemy" I was taught about, was becoming the "missing ally." The culture of peace was growing in me, my heart, my life; it became me, it became my life.
Awareness of peace differs from the mainstream political discourse, but this never turned down my passion, my dream for a better world. I met hundreds of people all over the island, and got to know new habits, new mentalities, and a diverse environment that was around me, so near and so far at the same time. I became fully aware of the needs of the "other" as I am aware of my need to live in dignity and harmony.
My teacher, Dr. Louise Diamond wrote in her book "The Courage for Peace": "Katie has gone on to become one of the strongest lights in the citizen peace-building movement in Cyprus, having personally convened hundreds of people from both communities for dialogue and bridge-building activities; her purpose and her vision allow her to transcend the hardships of the journey-She has a star to steer by." I feel that these are the most beautiful words a person ever expressed for me. I honor my teacher every day thanking her silently and peacefully for all she gave me. I am grateful to the Fulbright Commission for allowing this knowledge and experience to reveal to me. I owe them what I am.