Friday, 26 September 2008

Welcome Week's Greatest Gift

When I woke this morning, I was surprised to find my face and pillow wet with tears. After a week of welcoming new international students to the University of X and making many friends, the realization that my experience here will soon become a page in my past has struck surprisingly hard. I will not detail the entire week to you, but I will say what the greatest gift this week has given to me is:

The recognition that the news and popular media provide unfair representations of the people in our world.

"Well, duh!" you might be saying. "Isn't that a fairly common word of caution?" Yes, but think about it. Are we actually capable of coercing our minds into rejecting everything the media tells us about the countries and people of our world, and forming unique impressions about them on our own? I believe the answer is no, not unless we have not been to or met anyone from that area.

I will use Iran and Pakistan as my two personal examples. Before this week began, I will admit that 'terrorism and violence' were the two words that would involuntarily surface to my mind whenever I was presented with the name of either country. And then I met M and A - two lovely university students from the countries in question.

M is a peace loving Iranian with a quiet countenance, an educated mind, and a smile that could melt even the toughest of butter. A is a boisterous and enthusiastic Paki with a passion for life and learning. One minute he will be setting the floor on fire with his Bollywood dancing, the next, he will be throwing himself full force into his work and studies. Everything M and A do is with an open mind and an inherent desire to make other people feel at ease. In addition, though both M and A were fasting for Ramadan, they were able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the long hours of the week. They are possibly two of the nicest individuals I have ever encountered.

Owing to my two new friends, 'terrorism and violence' no longer bubble to the forefront of my mind as pertinent descriptors for Iran and Pakistan. Say the name of either country, and all I will be able to visualize is M's gentle smile and A dancing the night away. Perhaps as a remedy to prejudice, everyone should join a Welcome Week of their own.

Have you ever met an international pal who has changed your impression of their country?


amethyst said...

The Japanese kids I met in grade 8 - including Tatsuro - are probably my first experience in dealing with people from another country. I remember clumsily tutoring them in english & music class, & drawing pictures of Sailor Moon to get my point across, hehe. The impression of these painfully shy, quiet & oft-times bewildered grade 8 kids has never left me.

heather-in-italia said...

Yes, I couldn't imagine being placed in another country at the age of 10, and against my will, no less. It is around that age that kids begin to make friends for life, and to be torn away from them would be a terrible emotional upheaval. Personally, I think it is wrong that Japanese companies are be able to say where and when families go abroad, but that is just my humble option. :S

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