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Helping young people to build understanding and friendships across racial and cultural borders

In our latest blog post, International Universities Advisor Lisa Kearney, discusses the introduction of ‘Buddies Without Borders’ to Bryanston, and explores how it has helped offer pupils the chance to widen their outlook, demonstrate leadership potential and establish diversity of interest…

We are the only school in the UK to offer Buddies Without Borders as part of our extra-curricular programme. Run by Global Education Destinations, Buddies Without Borders is a global think tank by, and for, teens. 

I first discovered Buddies Without Borders (BWB) a couple of years ago and was impressed by their motto ‘Think Globally, Act Locally'. The remarkable organisation hosts online forums, which are month-long, web-based based collaborative and competitive projects attended by students aged 12-18 around the world. Topics discussed on online forums are as diverse as ‘Ecotourism’, ‘Human Migration’ and ‘Social Media for the Global Good’. The Forums are held 3-5 times a year and around 3-5 representatives from each country are selected to meet weekly online.

Students are grouped as equal global citizens into teams, assigned a country as their joint identity, and together throughout the month they will debate and co-author recommendation papers to solve a predefined challenge related to sustainable development goals. In online forums, pupils brainstorm solutions to solve problems that impact us all and design actionable projects. The forums demonstrate that international mindedness is best learned through cross-cultural friendship and global citizenship.

Mrs Yihung Mohs, Founder and Director of Buddies Without Borders visited Bryanston before the half term break.

Just before the half term break, we were very fortunate to have a visit from Mrs Yihung Mohs, the Founder and Director of BWB. After her visit, Mrs Mohs commented that from the hallway to the school ground interactions, it was obvious to her that the teachers and the pupils are loving and respectful towards one another.

During the visit, our BWB Club Presidents, Bryanna A and Issy W, along with their clubmates, explained to Mrs Mohs how they aim to dedicate their Local Action project to reducing waste and hunger by collecting unopened snacks from the boarding students at the end of the term for the Blandford Food Bank.

BWB Clubs are only offered to schools with pupils who have successfully completed a BWB Online Forum and been nominated by their coaches for the Pioneer Award. BWB is an ideal ECA for pupils considering international applications as the skills they will develop are highly regarded.

A2 pupil Issy W commented: “I recently took part in one of the online forums about migration. Migration wasn’t something I knew much about, and I enjoyed learning about Australia, the designated country my team and I had for the forum. We learnt about the difficulties immigrants face regarding the very high cost of living.”

She continued, “Following my participation in one of BWB’s online forums, I was nominated for a pioneer award of leadership. This allowed me to start my own club, continuing to communicate with people from around the world to discuss pressing issues. I contacted Bryanna and we decided we would do it together. Since, we have been running our club, we are currently creating ideas to help the Blandford Food Bank.”

By being part of the network of like-minded teens around the world, our pupils are making an even bigger impact, sharing their perspectives and approaches. As Mrs Mohs advised us on her visit, “After all, the cost of living and the codes of conduct may be different from country to country, but the culture of caring is universal. Buddies Without Borders helps young people to build understanding and friendships across racial and cultural borders and be equal global citizens.

In my role as International Universities Advisor, I encourage pupils – especially those applying to the USA - to build up a good portfolio of ECAs. American universities are not solely interested in grades – they value diversity of interest and experience, and they view the applicant as a whole package. I am always on the lookout for suitable ECAs, competitions and clubs that offer pupils a chance to widen their outlook and show leadership potential, and Buddies Without Borders fulfils all these aims and more.