Upon arriving in the hotel, I had no idea that I was about to fundamentally be changed over the course of just four days. I met my fellow participants who did not ask whether I read, but rather what I was into to get to know me better. This shows how we bonded over deep thinking, instead of over mutual interest as usually happens in “life outside the bubble”. When the whole group was gathered together for the first time, what struck me were the pulsating atmosphere of excitement and the shared philosopher’s mind-set I encountered at every twist of a sentence or turn of a conversation. Soon, I was not surprised anymore to seat myself at the breakfast table and join the highly interesting on-going discussion. Throughout the day at any given moment a debated could be sparked, or a line said with remarkable insight, or an intense wrestle witnessed wherein two youngsters fenced with words, defending their point of view. During the evening we would joke around, mess with each other in the way the youth is famous for. I remember going up to a hotel room to a small social gathering where I enrolled in a conversation that showed me the value of intellectual liberty. Everything was to be discussed with such openness and thoughtfulness that it made all my previous conversations pale in comparison. I have discovered, as someone put it, “ a depth I could not even phantom” to every person. And so the evening darkened to the night and we went to bed. There I lay pondering, knowing I did not have to keep these thoughts to myself. The magic of the IPO is that at any moment one is to speak his mind, and knows he will be met with enthusiasm. My time there was an unintended rebellion against the normalcy of my everyday life, and I did not realize it until the very moment of goodbye. Now the bubble has been pricked through, my friends are scattered across countries and I am confined to a strange loneliness I did not know existed. But this experience has enriched me in so many ways; I would not have given up a single minute of it.
Rafaela Verhaeghe (H.-Hartcollege Tervuren)