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BFTF 2013: The experience of a lifetime!

27 January 2014

July 2013 was an amazing month and crucial to every aspect of my life. I had the great opportunity to participate in the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute (BFTF), at Wake Forest University, in Winston- Salem of North Carolina along with 10 other young Americans and 34 European teenagers from various states and countries respectively.

This stunning, without exaggeration, program was funded by the U.S. Embassy of each country represented and by the U.S. Department of State. Its central theme was that of social entrepreneurship, ie finding innovative solutions to various social problems that plague society. Within this theme, the first of four weeks of the program included courses on social entrepreneurship, social strife and the United States Constitution. During our courses, personal work was requested but there were also activities like debate, role-plays and simulations of councils between states.

We had, of course, free time to explore the University and various cultural and recreational activities, such as the International Dinner with flavors from almost every corner of Europe and the U.S., a barbecue, and celebrations for the 4th of July Independence Day, and various other games of acquaintance.

The second week was spent on trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the U.S. capital, Washington. Both cities were beautiful and remarkable for separate reasons. Initially, in Philadelphia, we were fortunate to visit the National Constitution Center, the Independence Hall, the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the printing press of Benjamin Franklin. At the same time, we had free time to discover our own city, to walk around looking excited to taste the specialties and get in touch with life and culture.

After the trip to Philadelphia, a visit followed to the magical city of Washington, which despite its large size, it was easy to move around. There, we visited the Capitol, some of the Smithsonian Museums, the Washington Center, the Voice of America, the zoo and of course, the offices of the Pentagon where the NATO Council simulation took place. Of course, we had plenty of free personal time to get to know this wonderful city.

After our return to North Carolina, we did not return to the guesthouses of Wake Forest University, but for the next ten days, we had the opportunity to be hosted by an American family and come into contact with the culture of the Americans, the everyday life, the thinking and values ​​that underpin their lives. At the same time, we had ​​several workshops at the University concerning the importance of Media, Marketing, documentaries and how to request for sponsorship money for an event.

These three weeks of July, therefore, led to the fourth and last where all participants were asked to think and to present their own project, ie one's own idea and innovative solution to a problem of society where everyone lives, showing and using all the knowledge, skills and inspiration this program gave us. At the same time, we had lectures by several people, who also served as inspiration with their own projects and activities that help society to solve critical problems. In addition, the last week we had a great dinner and farewell party and of course, the graduation ceremony.

After about five months, I can safely say that July 2013 is and will be one of the most important and beautiful months of my life, that I will always remember and long for. Because, through this great, big trip, not only did I met some of the most wonderful people and precious friends, but I also got to know my own self, my strengths, abilities, personality and dreams. These remarkable people, participants, teachers, managers, mentors, orators, this remote location, this climate of love and teamwork, knowledge, experience, beautiful and creative moments, conversations, smiles .. all that is and will always serve an inspiration and a compass on the path of my life .

What is left, therefore, is to heartily thank all those who helped me to realize this trip and all those who made it wonderful and undoubtedly the catalyst for life and my personality.

For more information and photos please visit the links below :

● Page BFTF on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BftfWakeForestUniversity

● photos in my personal account facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chara.papastefanaki/media_set?set=a.389383254497266.1073741827.100002767841222&type=3

● Page BFTF: http://bftf.org/

● Staff My online diary for BFTF: http://charapapast.tumblr.com/

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