Last week I, along with Natalie, made up the student portion of a delegation from MIIS that went to the Universidad de El Salvador (UES) in San Salvador and attended a meeting with the Rector and Vice Rector. We went to discuss the possibilities of bilateral agreement between the university and the Monterey Institute of International Studies and to do a bit of a brain storm as to what that might include (i.e. student and professor exchanges, joint projects, etc.). One of the more exciting things (for me) that came out of that meeting was that Natalie and I managed to arrange an additional  meeting between the students that are participating in Team El Salvador and twenty students from the university (ten from the Consejo Estudiantil, or Student Council, and ten from the Asamblea, another student run body on campus). The idea was to start a conversation not only between the administrations but also between the students that might be affected by an agreement such as this. We met with them yesterday, Tuesday, the 22nd of January and it was a smashing success. They arrived to the Bajo Lempa (to Cuidad Romero specifically) at around 10 am and some people from Asociación Mangle opened up the meeting by thanking everyone for being there. They introduced me and I gave an additional, very brief, welcome speech and proceeded to introduce our team and then the students from the UES all went around and introduced themselves along with what they are studying. There was only one woman in the bunch and they were an extremely diverse mix of undergraduates, studying anything from law, veterinary medicine and statistics to computer sciences. We had a very frank, student run conversation about the possibilities and benefits that we all saw to an agreement between the institutions. I was really impressed by all of the creative ideas that the students had and the passionate and eloquent way in which they expressed them. Even if the universities never come to an official agreement to work together, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to meet all of these truly bright young people who are so eager to positively contribute to their communities. We talked about possible environmental analysis that we might be able to do together, students from both universities expressed interest in doing a study abroad or internship in the United States or El Salvador, respectively, and ideas were thrown back and forth about various projects with a focus on how such a rich group of individuals could comprehensively tackle any potential dilemma. One of the overarching themes was that the students from UES wanted more on the ground learning experiences and more direct involvement with projects (many times it is their professors that work on project and just have them study the results). It was an excellent example of how a diverse set of people with varying specialties can work together well and really start making a change by way of community based development. I look forward to continuing the conversation with them in the future.