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As her time as a Sauvé Scholar comes to an end, Shivangini Arora reflects on the experience of sharing close quarters with people from the world's four corners.
It's time to take the term "melting pot" and infuse it with a deeper layer of meaning. The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and McGill University have endeavoured to do just that, and bringing the phrase to life, are 12 young achievers from across the world who come to McGill as part of the nine-month-long Sauvé Scholars program.
Being one of the group, I'd like to offer an insider's view of this unique program.
Montreal, with its stunning architecture and Euro-feel, has welcomed me with open arms, offering an unrivalled multicultural ambience. McGill University grants us scholars open-door access to any course. We each get a significant monthly stipend and are housed in a breathtaking, 14-bedroom mansion. Now that's generosity.
During their stay, each scholar is to reflect and enlarge upon their understanding of the state of the world and their roles in effecting positive change. The foundation's goal is to encourage "development of and communication between youth, whatever their origin, with a special emphasis on study and discussion of international issues of global concern in which the voices of youth may be heard."
The voices are assuredly being heard loud and clear. This year's fellowship recipients comprise a smart and enthusiastic group that I am proud to call my co-scholars. Upon visiting the house and meeting people from Korea, Africa, China, Turkey, France, Pakistan, Canada and India, a friend commented that the variety in culture and race was akin to a session at the United Nations! I smiled in amusement, as the scene in the dining room is a global fusion of sorts, with each scholar bringing an individual mindset and lifestyle to the table (and varying cuisines, as well).
The core group behind this fellowship program is highly impressive. The Foundation's director, Jean-FranÁois Sauvé (Jeanne Sauvé's son), is integral to the program's structure and existence, and is aided by McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum. Architect Harry Parnass serves as the president, and skilfully designed our living quarters. The program's driving force is Jim Wright (officially the executive director and unofficially my jovial and able problem-fixer, be it practical or otherwise). They have both become my close mentors who continue to encourage and motivate me.
Hailing from the modern city of Bangalore in India, I'm always pleased to answer the questions on the role of my city as the silicon valley of India. The interest reflects the friendly, enquiring nature that is characteristic of Montrealers. People here revel in their different backgrounds, quite unlike those in other bustling cities I have visited.
The Sauvé House is a cozy confine of plush, individual bedrooms (with attached bathrooms) and common areas for interaction. The piËce de résistance of the striking three-storey mansion is the state-of-the-art kitchen, which can accommodate 20 people. This serves as a meeting area where scholars chat, debate and catch up on each other's activities. The third floor houses a living room, terrace, workstation (with two computers), conference area and digital editing suite. My preferred space is the atrium - an innovatively fashioned, glass-laden, carpeted area where I often settle down with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate or just relax and watch television.
There is an easy camaraderie between the scholars. We do not hesitate to debate and dissect each other's views on politics, culture or a current affairs topic. Parnass is quick to encourage collegial debates as a vital element of group dynamics and intellectual stimulation. We are each given the option to produce a thesis at the end of the program and are given full control in our choice of the subject. After much deliberation I chose my project and, along with a Sauvé scholar from the year before, have collaborated with the Citizen Shift initiative of the National Film Board. I am pleased to be conceptualizing and anchoring a video commentary titled Global Vocal, which profiles four of this year's scholars and solicits their opinions on media policy and the role of media in their societies. This thesis project equips me with skills that will further my career prospects as a broadcast journalist.
With each passing day, Sauvé House feels more and more like a home. All too soon, I find myself beset with a lingering sadness that this wonderful nine-month long session is coming to an end. The ethos that guides the foundation's unspoken motto urges me to keep moving. Carpe diem!
I am doing just that.
The author is currently completing a two-month internship at CBC and has been accepted at a graduate journalism program in Canada. For more information on the Sauvé fellowship, visit www.sauvescholars.org.