The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Andrew Heo '19: A Place Far From Home

Andrew Heo '19 with Lucy Thomas, director of Give Something Back to Berlin.

Protesters rally against Russia's support of Assad outside the Russian Embassy. 

Andrew Heo '19 with John Spykerman, the Chief of the Political-Military Unit of the US Embassy, Berlin 

Heo '19 and other volunteers teach refugees the German language in a informal cafe setting at German Language Café. 

Article Type 

There is no doubt that this opportunity was one of the brightest highlights of my first year at Dartmouth. It was a symbol of the powerful combination of teamwork and conviction for the cause of international peace, as well as a journey that opened my mind to the world of international aid and development.

Over the past few months, I have realized my privilege and power as a student at Dartmouth, an Ivy League institution. My membership gave me ready access to a huge network of the most talented youth of the world and organizations existing to help us realize our potentials.

I believed that as students, we shared an inherent connection with youths around the world. I wanted to have a chance to speak to the students of Syria myself and to educate the students of the U.S. with a different side of the story than what the often derogatory fast news on social media made of the situation. So I submitted my project proposal to the Ivy League Council, and, upon acceptance, was a given a team to work with for the newsletter’s completion.

Difficulties in developing this project was apparent from the beginning. My team members were incredibly busy students. We attended different institutions and had to communicate electronically, which I found to be a much less efficient mode of communication than meeting in person. We had to contact many individuals and organizations in Berlin, with low rates of responses. What hindered our development above all else was the lack of funding for the trip. My team members were responsible for the costs of their trip, either out-of-pocket or through funding through their respective schools. The lack of certainty of whether we would be able to go to Germany made planning difficult, and some members dropped out of the project altogether. In the end, only three of the original eight members got funding to go.

But the difficulties of the project also taught me so much. I had the great privilege of working with incredible people of the Ivy League Council, most of whom, despite being busy, were willing to put a lot of time and effort into the cause of the project. I gained valuable leadership experience, as I was responsible for guiding this project into fruition. It was the first time I led a team for a project of this size. The logistics of the trip taught me the importance of clear communication and maintaining an image of confidence and certainty throughout difficult times. Working with my team, I learned of the power of conviction for a cause as a unifying factor in teamwork.

Above all else, however, I learned of the common humanity we share with people all around the globe. I found incredible inspiration from working with people around the globe, united by our desire to help treat the wounds of this deep international crisis. The conversations I shared with youthful refugees were filled with lighthearted jokes and laughter as well as moments of deep compassion and understanding for the friends, families, and communities lost in the Syrian Civil War.

I returned to the states with an important cross-cultural experience in the field of international relations. I am excited to see what the future holds for me next.

With our findings and experiences, we created a newsletter with articles focusing on the individuals we interviewed. We found that every single person involved in the crisis had a story of their own to tell, that the diversity of their lives and personalities simply cannot be generalized in a single statement regarding refugees. I am proud to present, “A Place Far From Home”, which you can read here

-Submitted by Andrew Heo '19, Rockefeller Mini-Grant Recipient

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences