My parents always say that their college experience was very different than mine. When they were in college they used typewriters, they did not have Google or Zoom, and they would have to pay an absurd fee to talk on the phone with someone international. I can only imagine how they would react if I told them that during my International Relations class I zoomed with students at American University of Sharjah. We discussed the similarities and differences of where we grew up and/or live right now. We spoke about our hometown’s geography, media coverage of politics and exposure to it, and consideration for sustainability.
I was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland right outside of Washington D.C.. Lily, a Dickinson student, was born and raised in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sofia, another Dickinson student was born in West Virginia. Her town is also in the outskirts of Pittsburg. Riham is from Somalia. She was born and raised, however, in Northern Virginia near D.C like me. Now she studies in the UAE. Ayesha was born in Karachi, Pakistan but now she studies in the UAE. We discovered that all of us throughout our whole lives have lived relatively close to bigger cities.
Lily and Sofia shared that people are fairly removed from politics unless it is local election season or the presidential election. Politics has always been a central focus in my area due to my proximity to D.C.. Riham and Ayesha informed us that in the UAE they have a monarchy. People do not vote and are therefore less engaged in politics. This lack of engagement in politics is also explained by the number of expats in the UAE. Lily, Sofia, and I said that the U.S often reports only extreme stories in U.S media about the Middle East. Ayshia believes that Arabs are often presented in a negative and incorrect way in U.S. media.
Our last conversation was about our areas focus on addressing sustainability issues. Lily and I similarly had sustainability courses be a part of our education in high school and college. We believe the U.S. is trying to address sustainability efforts but could be doing more. Ayshia and Riham said they think the UAE does a lot of work for encouraging sustainability. They even shares the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were a part of every course they have taken at university.
Our conversation was eye opening and I look forward to speaking with more students from Dickinson and the University of Sharjah over the next few months.
Image: Collage created by Eve London
Sources: (https://www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302863774, https://nationaltoday.com/pakistan-independence-day/, https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Somalia, https://www.rd.com/list/washington-dc-facts/, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/209698926371512854/, https://www.intelligentcio.com/north-america/2021/02/16/city-of-pittsburg-and-pittsburg-community-schools-collaborate-to-bridge-digital-divide/)