Coming from a small country in South Asia, it was an unbelievable experience for me to meet people from around the world. Without travelling to those 91 countries I got to know a lot of their culture and people! I did not know that GLF would also open a chapter in my life that was never touched before!
In the first session, I became friend with a fellow from Palestine. Just after that we had a discussion session on Refugee crisis around the world. It was so interesting for me to know that she actually comes from a refugee camp from Palestine. The fellow from Bolivia, much to my surprise, knew a lot about my country! He said that until he met me, he had a different impression about the people and culture of Bangladesh.
The State Department reception was an amazing opportunity to meet and network with more people. Getting to see people’s local attire was an interesting parts. I also had a very insightful discussion with the curator of Emory University, whose wife turned out to be a Bengali too. He shared some stories of his life when he was in Dhaka and west Bengal in the 1960’s.
Practically, the biggest achievement for me during GLF was to meet some great people from Pakistan. Pakistan and Bangladesh share a gruesome part of history which the people from Bangladesh hate to remember. Our liberation war with Pakistan gave us some wounds that still haunts us. And being a daughter of a freedom fighter, I grew up listening all the stories of war crimes, killings, Rapes and humanitarian crises that my country had faced by the Pakistani Military and Police in 1971.
No wonder, Pakistan is a chapter in my personal and professional life that I was not comfortable to deal with. I never went to Pakistan or was friends with someone from that country. But GLF opened my eyes in a very interesting way. A fellow from Pakistan who is a police officer started talking to me about Bangladesh and how they have heard all good things about Bangladesh from his father who used to work there. Eventually I become easy talking with him. Later at the regional group discussion, I met a bunch of other Pakistani fellows and they invited me to their country. GLF became the bridge for the journalists of two countries who share an awkward past!
The ability to network, to develop professional and personal connections around the world is a critical skill for any journalist. And I believe it can be extremely difficult when the rules of networking vary drastically in different cultures. GLF gave me the lesson that it’s not that tough that it sounds. I learnt that networking is not about selling the best version of me, it’s more about learning from those around me, mastering the new cultures and opening the door for many new relations and ideas.