PAX exchange students from the Philippines inside a church during the Better Understanding for a Better World conference (BUBW)
All YES PAXers from the Philippines, Marwa, Amir, and Famie take a timeout from their Christianity "interfaith experience" at Our Lady of the Angels in Catonsville, MD.

A New World of Learning

In what is always one of the most inspiring displays of the year, American and international exchange students alike recently gathered in Baltimore for the Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) conference.

Starting from the viewpoint that the most pressing issue facing youth today is how they view the “other,” BUBW aims to transcend boundaries of fear through collaborative interactions and multicultural dialogue with students from various faith traditions and cultures. As such, the conference includes: diversity and multi-cultural competency training, leadership development, conflict resolution and peace-building workshops, as well as interfaith experiences. The interfaith segment focuses especially on the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Representing PAX were a total of 21 FLEX and YES students. These U.S. Department of State-sponsored students were selected for the conference based on their PAX virtual exchange contest submissions. While their virtual exchange projects employed communication technologies to connect communities and classrooms of young people, as Amir (YES, Philippines) explains below, the BUBW conference itself was a powerful, in-person experience.

Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) is a five-day conference that offered new ideas to everyone in attendance. It tackled important issues regarding religion and how to effect change. Thirty-two countries came together to discuss building a better world. Students had the opportunity to share things about their countries and offer solutions for identified problems.

The best part was our interfaith day when we visited a church, a synagogue, and a mosque, and had a panel discussion with an imam and a priest. Having people of different races and religions come together for the purpose of connecting and understanding each other gives us hope that world peace is possible. 

Meeting people from different countries and walks of life was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was an honor to have conversations with people who will lead the world in the future. Also, being part of a Filipino cultural performance with other Filipino exchange students in front of all of the delegations was very special. 

The most important thing I learned during BUBW was the value of civil discourse as we exchanged ideas and thoughts about social issues that our religions and societies are facing. It gave us a place to interact peacefully and discuss things that most people don’t pay attention to.

—Amir (YES, Philippines), hosted by the McGinnis family (OH)