Six students from the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), Marlin Ardo, Abdulkader Hajj Abdallah, Pierina Mhasseb, Reine Sawan, Maria Lourdes Yazbeck, and Alisandra Sakr, took part in the 2023 Global Sessions (GS) in Stockholm. Each year, the GS focus on issues related to social welfare policy development and practice, dealing with topics such as poverty, education, healthcare, migration, social justice, and the impact of climate change and the digital revolution.
These annual sessions are now over a decade old and are held on-campus in a rotating basis among the participating universities in Europe. NDU has been an active participant during the last four years, made possible by the introduction of an online and later hybrid approach as a result of lockdown.
The Global Sessions 2023 focus was titled “Vulnerable youth – Prospects and challenges for young people in late modern societies,” divided into four parallel on-campus Tracks, and a fifth online Track combining all four topics. The Tracks tackled the following topics: (1) “Mental illness – living in an uncertain and competitive environment;” (2) “Education – to not fit in the existing school system;” (3) “Involuntary migration - to be lost in an unknown society;” and (4) “Climate change challenges - climate actions.” The FLPS participants took part in the fifth Online Track for an entire week, culminating in a group report on one of the topics of their choice on the fifth day.
Participants, both online and on-campus, numbered almost 200, hailing from Denmark, Germany, Finland, India, Lebanon, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
From the FLPS, all six students took part in the initial mandatory kick-off session on May 22. Four of them, Mhasseb, Sawan, Hajj Abdallah, and Yazbeck, took part in the GS during the week of May 29 till June 2.
The FLPS participants reported: “As students, this experience was filled with many opportunities starting from meeting new students from various countries and getting to know more about their perspectives on the topics being tackled, to learning more about migration, climate change, and education from instructors from around the world.”
Their week was divided into two parts, the former revolving around certain Tracks, and the latter participating in assigned groups to come up with a presentation on the topic of their choice. “The diversity of the groups was a strongpoint, allowing for cross-cultural exchange of experiences and points of view,” the FLPS participants said. “Being exposed to new ways of thinking is a must as students of International Affairs and Diplomacy at NDU.”
The contrast in perspective on topics dealing with social welfare between the Global North and Global South became evident immediately, with the students from India and Lebanon often differing in their views from their Scandinavian and Central European counterparts. This became particularly clear when the issue of refugees came up. In order to facilitate North-South dialogue, the FLPS students were invited to virtually join the on-campus Track Three on involuntary migration. They showcased the impact of Lebanon’s current crisis on refugee policies in the country, “which prompted a lot of feedback from the European students and provided them with novel insights,” according to an FLPS participant.
The NDUers summarized their experience: “The GS offered us an invaluable opportunity to see both India and Sweden from Lebanon, by virtually attending an organized virtual field trip.” The issues discussed were central to the modern socio-political climate, which enabled the FLPS participants to increase their awareness and knowledge, which will be instrumental in their academic and scholarly pursuits. They also offered a thanks to FLPS Professor Eugene Sensenig, who helped coordinate and design Track Three and assisted in the Track Five online session.