The DIOP Circle V.29

January 14th, 2020


Sébastien Noël

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're delighted to have Sébastien Noël. He's our 1,045th customer and likes to keep The Qualia Top for special occasions. Hit our story to see what making community feels like across borders

I’ve always been a part of a community of some sort.

The first community group I joined back in 2011 was Scouts, where I was on staff. I was brought in by one of my close friends to help out in “Unité Roi Beaudoin”, along with two other ones, which was quite unusual given the lack of experience we had with scouting in our childhood. Regardless, the experience expanded the minds of both the kids enrolled as well as staff like myself. We learned respect and altruism built character, and helped to create long-lasting friendships.

My best memories were during the 10-day summer camp away from parents, which symbolized the apotheosis of what we had taught them. From there, the bonds grew even stronger. The kids gave their best to represent their local unit in front of several others during regional events.

In joining a community, the most important thing to me is inclusiveness. The more diverse a group is, the more interesting it is. A lot of organizations I’ve encountered were predominantly middle class white people. That isn’t a problem on it’s own but doesn’t reflect my experience even if we are aligned in our values.

When I was 24, I arrived in New York City to do an internship. I didn’t know anyone. I had to build relationships from scratch. I used apps and meetups to get by until I found a group of queer and ally professionals. I attended a few meetings both in New York and Jersey City. It was nice to meet people my own age who came together from different backgrounds.

The LGBTQ twenty-something group offered interesting monthly group discussions around online dating, body positivity, and building your community, and also a more social day with stuff like board games. What I found really appealing about that group was the inclusion in terms of gender and race, especially in the attendance of transgender or gender non-conforming people, which I was not used to.

Despite the efforts made by the group managers, I found the process of making friends quite lengthy and surprisingly difficult, even once becoming a regular member and always hanging out at the Stonewall Inn after the events. However by mid-summer, I got to meet and befriend people from another group in the city mostly comprised by African-American and Latinx people. Looking back on it, I feel thankful I met these people, who made me feel more at home and included.

Some of our members were part of the Queer Liberation March which seeks to drive corporate interests out of the queer community in the broad sense. It is more of a civic organization; in addition to advocacy, the March worked on HIV/AIDS reduction and education. I learned of them during New York’s World Pride celebration, where I teamed up and marched on the streets along with 44,000 people, some affiliate members or not.

Although I was not too much excited to attend the Pride event this year, I wished I had more time to dedicate to the organization, but I was already near the end of my internship at that time. What really amazed me though was the fact I was able to build my own, although temporary, LGBTQ+ community of people who brought me a more meaningful experience than the often toxic Grindr-related discussions or any other dating apps for that matter.

During my time at University, I continued participating in Community projects such as European Law Student Association (ELSA) and Cellule de Droit International. The first two associations I joined aimed at bringing law student closer together by providing Erasmus (a pan-European study abroad program) and internship assistance and networking for the first, and on-campus conferences about critical humanitarian situations for the second.

Stand up for Europe, which I was a member of before my internship in the United States, was quite different in its nature and demographics since there was no age restriction. Also, the objective was very much wider; their ambition is to reconnect European citizen to its Institutions, encouraging an informed and democratic debate. Although I met motivated people there, I felt we were trapped in our own bubble and sung to the choir perhaps too much at times, instead of seeking more diversity from different cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.

A few years ago, I was a member of Stand Up for Europe, an organization for graduates to understand and promote democracy in Europe. A friend of mine had always been involved in grassroots political organizations and through word of mouth, convinced me to join. I became a dues paying member and worked on projects while I was in University. What was most meaningful about it the experience was people of different backgrounds united in the same goal. Sometimes there was tension, especially when people didn’t see eye to eye. But inevitably, new ideas would come forward.

During my first months as a master student, I spent the winter semester in Sofia, Bulgaria thanks to the Erasmus+ program. Bulgaria was quite a challenge at first. However, I was given a unique opportunity to live and study at a highly ranked University and discover a new culture through its music, dance, food and natural landscape.

Making friends with other students of different nationalities completed the multicultural experience. I spent most of my time either traveling with them or simply hanging out in the same apartment building where we used to live. I am still in touch with some of them and hope we’ll meet again very soon.

Though I’m of African descent, I was born and bred in Mons, a city about 60 miles away from Brussels in Belgium. And though I am well aware intolerance also exists here, I've barely experienced it myself. Because the environment I grew up in, which I’m very grateful for, I felt racial inclusion was more of a reality in the United States because of cultural, political and professional representation in spite or perhaps because of its history.

That being said, I remember I enjoyed celebrating some summer nights with the big African family of one of my childhood friends, which reminded me of how my live-in landlady in the United States would have her family members visit her from across the country during my stay. Being invited to family events, attending gospel church service with my landlady, and hanging out with other young people in the US gave me good memories and brought me a deeper insight into African-American culture I was sometimes able to connect to despite coming from a different place.

My favorite part of these experiences has been finding common ground with people who have different perspectives. It isn’t always easy but I enjoy the challenge. Part of moving communities forward is trying to achieve the same goal in spite of differing opinions. I like the feeling of teamwork and the effort needed to bring a project together. I like a challenge. And that’s essentially what drives me in any community I’ve been a member of. I guess it can also help explain why I try to get as many life experiences as I can.

Apart from regularly taking vacations, I also like cultural exchanges and was given such an opportunity while I took part in Model European Union. It consists of a Pan-European political simulation of continental politics held in various places, without restrictions on nationality or any other criteria except age (you had to be under 30 years old to participate). The added value of such a project is by exposing people from different cultural identities to one another and helping foster relationships across borders.

Another way I see it is through dancing. Back in my hometown I took several ballroom dancing classes. And in New York, I discovered Bhangra through which I met People of Indian descent and learned more about their culture.

In my experience, the most important values to finding and building community are motivation, commitment, socialization, and curiosity. You have to feel involved and give 100% to a group in order to do the work. You may not understand a culture or be shocked by it, but you need to commit to make progress.

And after all that, make an effort to socialize. Spend time with people outside the group context and get to know them. If we can learn from one another, then we can help and stand up for one another. I hope this continues as I am now preparing for my next professional trip to Shanghai, China in March.


The DIOP Circle V.29

January 14th, 2020


Sébastien Noël

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're presenting Shannon Jackson. She's our 1,292th customer and loves the Kerma, Nansi, and Amar patterns the most.

I’ve always been a part of a community of some sort.

The first community group I joined back in 2011 was Scouts, where I was on staff. I was brought in by one of my close friends to help out in “Unité Roi Beaudoin”, along with two other ones, which was quite unusual given the lack of experience we had with scouting in our childhood. Regardless, the experience expanded the minds of both the kids enrolled as well as staff like myself. We learned respect and altruism built character, and helped to create long-lasting friendships.

My best memories were during the 10-day summer camp away from parents, which symbolized the apotheosis of what we had taught them. From there, the bonds grew even stronger. The kids gave their best to represent their local unit in front of several others during regional events.

In joining a community, the most important thing to me is inclusiveness. The more diverse a group is, the more interesting it is. A lot of organizations I’ve encountered were predominantly middle class white people. That isn’t a problem on it’s own but doesn’t reflect my experience even if we are aligned in our values.

When I was 24, I arrived in New York City to do an internship. I didn’t know anyone. I had to build relationships from scratch. I used apps and meetups to get by until I found a group of queer and ally professionals. I attended a few meetings both in New York and Jersey City. It was nice to meet people my own age who came together from different backgrounds.

The LGBTQ twenty-something group offered interesting monthly group discussions around online dating, body positivity, and building your community, and also a more social day with stuff like board games. What I found really appealing about that group was the inclusion in terms of gender and race, especially in the attendance of transgender or gender non-conforming people, which I was not used to.

Despite the efforts made by the group managers, I found the process of making friends quite lengthy and surprisingly difficult, even once becoming a regular member and always hanging out at the Stonewall Inn after the events. However by mid-summer, I got to meet and befriend people from another group in the city mostly comprised by African-American and Latinx people. Looking back on it, I feel thankful I met these people, who made me feel more at home and included.

Some of our members were part of the Queer Liberation March which seeks to drive corporate interests out of the queer community in the broad sense. It is more of a civic organization; in addition to advocacy, the March worked on HIV/AIDS reduction and education. I learned of them during New York’s World Pride celebration, where I teamed up and marched on the streets along with 44,000 people, some affiliate members or not.

Although I was not too much excited to attend the Pride event this year, I wished I had more time to dedicate to the organization, but I was already near the end of my internship at that time. What really amazed me though was the fact I was able to build my own, although temporary, LGBTQ+ community of people who brought me a more meaningful experience than the often toxic Grindr-related discussions or any other dating apps for that matter.

During my time at University, I continued participating in Community projects such as European Law Student Association (ELSA) and Cellule de Droit International. The first two associations I joined aimed at bringing law student closer together by providing Erasmus (a pan-European study abroad program) and internship assistance and networking for the first, and on-campus conferences about critical humanitarian situations for the second.

Stand up for Europe, which I was a member of before my internship in the United States, was quite different in its nature and demographics since there was no age restriction. Also, the objective was very much wider; their ambition is to reconnect European citizen to its Institutions, encouraging an informed and democratic debate. Although I met motivated people there, I felt we were trapped in our own bubble and sung to the choir perhaps too much at times, instead of seeking more diversity from different cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.

A few years ago, I was a member of Stand Up for Europe, an organization for graduates to understand and promote democracy in Europe. A friend of mine had always been involved in grassroots political organizations and through word of mouth, convinced me to join. I became a dues paying member and worked on projects while I was in University. What was most meaningful about it the experience was people of different backgrounds united in the same goal. Sometimes there was tension, especially when people didn’t see eye to eye. But inevitably, new ideas would come forward.

During my first months as a master student, I spent the winter semester in Sofia, Bulgaria thanks to the Erasmus+ program. Bulgaria was quite a challenge at first. However, I was given a unique opportunity to live and study at a highly ranked University and discover a new culture through its music, dance, food and natural landscape.

Making friends with other students of different nationalities completed the multicultural experience. I spent most of my time either traveling with them or simply hanging out in the same apartment building where we used to live. I am still in touch with some of them and hope we’ll meet again very soon.

Though I’m of African descent, I was born and bred in Mons, a city about 60 miles away from Brussels in Belgium. And though I am well aware intolerance also exists here, I've barely experienced it myself. Because the environment I grew up in, which I’m very grateful for, I felt racial inclusion was more of a reality in the United States because of cultural, political and professional representation in spite or perhaps because of its history.

That being said, I remember I enjoyed celebrating some summer nights with the big African family of one of my childhood friends, which reminded me of how my live-in landlady in the United States would have her family members visit her from across the country during my stay. Being invited to family events, attending gospel church service with my landlady, and hanging out with other young people in the US gave me good memories and brought me a deeper insight into African-American culture I was sometimes able to connect to despite coming from a different place.

My favorite part of these experiences has been finding common ground with people who have different perspectives. It isn’t always easy but I enjoy the challenge. Part of moving communities forward is trying to achieve the same goal in spite of differing opinions. I like the feeling of teamwork and the effort needed to bring a project together. I like a challenge. And that’s essentially what drives me in any community I’ve been a member of. I guess it can also help explain why I try to get as many life experiences as I can.

Apart from regularly taking vacations, I also like cultural exchanges and was given such an opportunity while I took part in Model European Union. It consists of a Pan-European political simulation of continental politics held in various places, without restrictions on nationality or any other criteria except age (you had to be under 30 years old to participate). The added value of such a project is by exposing people from different cultural identities to one another and helping foster relationships across borders.

Another way I see it is through dancing. Back in my hometown I took several ballroom dancing classes. And in New York, I discovered Bhangra through which I met People of Indian descent and learned more about their culture.

In my experience, the most important values to finding and building community are motivation, commitment, socialization, and curiosity. You have to feel involved and give 100% to a group in order to do the work. You may not understand a culture or be shocked by it, but you need to commit to make progress. And after all that, make an effort to socialize. Spend time with people outside the group context and get to know them. If we can learn from one another, then we can help and stand up for one another. I hope this continues as I am now preparing for my next professional trip to Shanghai, China in March.


Sébastien Noël

Follow Sébastien @Noel.Seb

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Sébastien Noël


Follow Sébastien @Noel.Seb

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.