Alexia Armstrong (pictured above, with her arm raised) came to Explo Startup in 2013 to find out more about what it means to be an entrepreneur. The next summer, she enrolled in Explo Foreign Affairs, met fellow students Cole Cooper (Explo Foreign Affairs) and Amber Yildizel (Explo at Yale), and launched Young Diplomacy, an academic journal on foreign affairs written for (and by) teens.
Young Diplomacy seems like the perfect blend of entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for international affairs. How did the idea to create Young Diplomacy come about, and what inspired you and your collaborators to launch it?
I should mention how we all met, because I think it's a pretty great story that shows how diverse Explo is. Cole and I met during Explo Foreign Affairs and immediately got along, but here is where it gets interesting. My friend in Geneva texted me during Explo, telling me that her friend Amber (whom she had met in Turkey) was also at Explo and we should meet.
Funnily enough, that same night Cole, a few other friends and I went to see a movie. At some point, someone said, "Hey Alex," and made a Swiss joke (which I had grown accustomed to). Amber looks at me and says, "This might be random, but are you Alexia from Geneva?" And voilà the beginning.
In the fall, Cole came up with the idea of Young Diplomacy, and we knew we had everything going for us: each of a different religion, 4 nationalities, 7 languages, and we all loved to write. We started working on a name, a website, getting some writers, and funding. This would have never happened without Explo, which brought us all together.
What is your vision for Young Diplomacy? Next year? In five years?
In the next year or so, we will start publishing more frequent articles, expanding our editorial team and developing a more prominent online presence through social networks. We hope that Young Diplomacy will be a platform for tomorrow's diplomats and leaders to share their opinions and insight on current events. Eventually, we will have to pass on the torch to the next generation, but I hope when the time comes, YD will already have a significant global impact.
What are your primary areas of focus now, and how do you plan/hope to expand them in the future?
By focusing on current events, we adapt as the world changes. We don't have at the moment any plans of changing our clear focus on foreign affairs, but I'm certain our content will take interesting new turns and shapes in the future.
If you could hire your ideal writers, what qualities and/or interests would they possess?
We don't want convention to hinder freedom of expression — that isn't to say that Young Diplomacy supports extremist views, but we encourage moderate controversy, and if arguments are rational and reasonable, we will publish the articles.
Our ideal writers will not be afraid to delve deeper into the significance and possible outcomes of current events by making reference to historical occurrences. Their inquisitiveness will lead them into compelling discussions about today's world and they will trigger further reflection in our readers. Individually, they will combine their culture, education, religious beliefs and opinions for well-formulated articles. Together, they will create a synergy that we hope to foster on Young Diplomacy by combining a plethora of these shrewd individuals.
Discover Young Diplomacy
The brainchild of Alexia Armstrong and Cole Cooper, who attended Explo Foreign Affairs, and Amber Yildizel, who attended Explo at Yale, Young Diplomacy is a new and exciting "academic journal voicing the youth’s perspective on the world of international affairs."
We interviewed Alexia to find out more about her Explo experience and to help her spread the word: Young Diplomacy is looking to recruit more writers, and wants to add more Explo students to the mix. If you're interested in becoming a writer for Young Diplomacy, contact them directly. As Alexia, one of the Editors-in-Chief says:
Alexia, how did you find out about Explo?
I had done a traditional camp the year before, living in cabins with s'mores around a bonfire. I wanted to try something new, something intellectually challenging and fun all at once. Then I heard through a family friend about Explo, did some research, and immediately knew it was for me.
What aspects of Explo Startup inspired you?
In Explo Startup, our main project was to create a product and sell it. We learned how to develop our idea, network with professionals, and pitch to a panel of judges. This helped me gain confidence and provided me the essential tools to promote Young Diplomacy.
You next chose to enroll in Explo Foreign Affairs. How did that come about?
I live in Geneva, the heartland of international affairs, an environment that has shaped who I am today. I was thrilled to be admitted into Explo Foreign Affairs, as I knew that it would help me develop and deepen my knowledge of politics, foreign policy, and international relations.
What did you think of your instructors and the off-campus trips?
The instructors were some of the best teachers I've ever had. They are inspiring and passionate about what they teach, and they do a great job at keeping a focused, motivated class discussion. My Explo Startup teacher actually helped me in working out a mission statement, and my Explo Foreign Affairs teacher was the one who sparked in me a passion for the subject. The off-campus trips were a great part of the Explo experience, particularly in Explo Startup, where we were able to discover burgeoning businesses as well as international companies.
Were there aspects of your Explo experience that stood out above the rest? What were they, and how did they affect you?
I have hundreds of scattered memories of my weeks at Explo, but out of all of them, I think the one that marked me the most happened during our Ukraine crisis simulation this summer. After a week of learning about the different policies and world views, we held a mock presidential election. There were two rounds of voting to give us a chance at an effective campaign, and I won by a very close margin. I then became the President of the United States and kept this role in the subsequent simulation of the Ukrainian crisis, where we all had individual roles and had to work together to settle the peace.
One night, at around 2am, (according to my flatmate who was still up in the living room), an emissary knocked on my door, saying, "I need to see the President of the United States!" The girl (an Explo Marketing student) promptly slammed the door in her face, convinced it was some insane counselor looking for Obama in Yale's dormitories. She then realised this must have to do with Foreign Affairs, and a few minutes later, NATO and the U.S., Russian, and Ukrainian governments were running across the quad to get to the "emergency" in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
The purpose was for us to understand that big decisions must often be made in the most charged circumstances — in this case making rational diplomatic decisions while trying to keep the matchsticks from splintering — and I overall I think it was a very stimulating exercise.
For new students coming to Explo this summer (or those still thinking about it), what would you tell them about Explo?
It's not like anything you've ever experienced. Students and staff at Explo are positive, motivated, and unique. Everyone has a different background, everyone has stories to share. I discovered this on my weekend trips when I didn't always know anyone but could nevertheless strike up an entertaining conversation with pretty much anyone. Each time, I regretted not signing up for two sessions.
On a more personal note, when you grow up, where do you see yourself? What do you want to make happen?
This is a tricky one, but I will try my best to answer.
My problem is that I love everything. Narrowing it down to doing only one thing for the rest of my life is the most alien and ungraspable concept to me. I believe that all our experiences can complement one another (like Explo Startup and Explo Foreign Affairs), and I want to thrive on my conviction by finding or creating a position that will enable me to simultaneously pursue my varying interests. Finding this utopian business requires a bit more reflection and patience, and I hope that at when I attend university two years from now, I will be able to build on the great foundations that I established at Explo.