Eighteen unique professionals from around the globe arrived on campus this month for the 2014 World Fellows program.

Every year since 2002, the program has invited unique professionals from a variety of fields and countries to New Haven for a four-month session in which they have intensive academic discussions and also take part in campus events. The fellows this year are leaders in areas ranging from engineering to movie production to politics. Members of the group include a Tunisian peace activist, an environmental lawyer and a former minister of culture from Colombia.

The fellows were selected from a pool of around 4,000 applicants for the opportunity. The number of applications for this group grew substantially from last year, when 2,500 applications were received.

The World Fellows are able to take a break from business as usual and learn from one another, broaden their perspectives and make new connections during their time at Yale.

“It’s great to be in a place where you’re in an ocean of ideas,” said World Fellow Parmesh Shahani, who leads the Godrej India Culture Lab in Bombay, a group that works at the intersection of academia, business and creative industries.

While at Yale, all the fellows participate in seminars together, where they debate ideas and share their professional experiences. In these seminars, Shahani said, professional differences dissolve.

“When you’re in a room together, there’s magic and an electric current,” he said. “I know that I will have the other fellows to count on as family.”

Mara Revkin GRD ’20, a graduate student who is an associate World Fellow, said that the dialogue between fellows is an opportunity to break out of the “specialized silos” in which they all normally work.

Aside from taking seminars specifically crafted for them, the fellows also have the opportunity to audit ordinary Yale classes. Shahani is currently auditing economics professor Robert Shiller’s “Behavioral and Institutional Economics” lecture and African American studies professor Hazel Carby’s seminar entitled “Imagined Futures.”

Shu “George” Chen, an award-winning journalist from Hong Kong, is focusing on U.S.-China relations.

“Many rich Chinese are leaving the country, and I’m keen to know more about the political and economic reasons behind this trend,” Chen said.

Outside of their formal academic activities, World Fellows often join in on “storytelling sessions” with one another. Though the contents of these sessions are private, Chen said he believes the meetings build strong mutual trust.

The World Fellows also plan on contributing to Yale’s intellectual diversity. Over the course of their four-month stay, the fellows will give talks and make various public appearances in New Haven and surrounding cities. Shahani, for example, is giving several talks on Yale’s campus in the next few months and is also looking to host an LGBT film festival featuring celebrated contemporary LGBT films from India.

Shahani noted that he is also excited to engage in other parts of New Haven.

Chen said he is enjoying the “green land” of the city.

“In Hong Kong and China, air pollution is a big problem nowadays and we don’t usually see clear, blue skies as often as people do here,” Chen said. “Can you imagine that? Fresh air and blue skies are almost luxuries to me.”

The current group of fellows joins 239 past World Fellows who have passed through Yale.

The 18 World Fellows will host an official World Fellows night on Sept. 18 at the Afro-American Cultural Center to introduce the community to the group and their talents.