My name is David De Sa and I participated in Aliante 2015. Aliante is a truly innovative and unique initiative that afforded me the experience of a lifetime. The competition experience was very rewarding, even before the trip to Lithuania for the finals. Parts 1 & 2 of the competition which involved researching NATO initiatives and history was an eye opening experience for me as I learned about conflicts that I had previously not known existed, and the efforts and results of international organizations such as NATO’s involvement in them. This knowledge has proven to be very valuable in helping me to understand the history of Europe and especially in understanding more recent conflicts such as recent events in Ukraine.
The competition finals in Lithuania were incredibly challenging, physically, but I would do them again without any hesitation. These challenges included a NATO standard obstacle course, and various tasks and challenge stations along the path of a twelve kilometre run. The challenges were, of course, enjoyable in their own way, but what made the experience amazing was the opportunity to meet so many like-minded, driven, and interesting individuals my own age from all the European nations participating in Aliante 2015. The excitement started when we were combined with a Czech team to form an international team of four.
It was a chance to make new friends and have fun, but also to become more worldly. To meet people who have lived their whole lives in a strikingly different culture, political landscape, and in the shadow of so much history, taught me a lot about understanding different perspectives and was an insight into just how different other places and people can be, which is a great thing.
I was fortunate enough to be on a winning team in Aliante 2015 and was well-rewarded with a trip to beautiful Georgia. It was a country I wasn’t familiar with before, but I am glad to say that I am now. The visit was truly a privilege and fantastic learning experience. Much of our time was spent visiting historical sites and museums learning about the region’s past, but we also learned of its present and future as well meeting with national diplomats, speakers, and government representatives.
As in Lithuania, the experience was eye opening in that I came face to face with a new foreign culture and people, but in the case of the Georgians, it was more intimate and thorough. Aliante is an amazing project that has allowed many young people like myself to not only see the world, but to experience it; to not only see its people, but to know them. I will always treasure the memories I have from my time abroad, and none of it could have happened without Aliante.