Different Lives

Two days ago my International Relations class at Dickinson College had a zoom meeting with students from the American University of Sharjah. In breakout rooms we were combined with students from both schools and discussed things about ourselves. As I reflect on my conversations with my exchange partners I noticed significant differences in our lifestyles and upbringings. I grew up in Delaware in a suburban neighborhood close to a shopping center and movie theater. I spent lots of time playing club sports and hanging out with neighborhood friends. Once I was old enough my brother and I would walk to the movies or the ice cream store. I wasn’t quite sure who our country leaders were and my political knowledge was limited to whatever I overhead my Dad watching on the 6 o’clock news. My exchange partners on the other hand illustrated very different upbringings. They all grew up in countries outside of the UAE but eventually immigrated to the UAE for education purposes and (for some) the promise of safety. My partners explained extensive knowledge on relevant political events regarding their native countries and described how their lives changed accordingly. All of my partners were fluent in another language other than English and some of them only used that other language growing up. They also made note of the importance of education and pursuing high level knowledge. My partners expressed close relationships with their family but neither suggested participation in club sports as children (this could be completely irrelevant to our upbringings, next time I’ll ask more questions). I noticed that growing up in the U.S. means it is not atypical to grow up with a lack of political knowledge whereas in the UAE, and countries surrounding, there is a much larger emphasis on keeping up with current events in one’s day-to-day life. However, the fact that we were all students stood as a clear bridge between our different lives. My partners study a lot and live in dorms or commute the same way students at Dickinson do. We shared similar interests in Netflix shows and use the same social media platforms. I noticed that despite being countries apart, University students in Sharjah are not much different from those at Dickinson. We all shared similar stories of being friends with neighborhood kids and playing outside when we were children. I think at the core, we only differ from our environments, not from our desires to have fun and be happy.

Making s’mores with neighborhood friends in 2013

3 responses to “Different Lives”

  1. Hi Tia, thank you for this interesting post! I found particularly intriguing what you said about the emphasis on political awareness in this region compared to the US. This came up in my group’s discussion too, where the Dickinson students actually noted that people in their areas are generally very aware of and engaged in national politics. From the different perspectives I’ve heard so far, it seems to me that the people in the UAE grow up more aware of international/regional issues (because of the diverse living/working environments as well as a lack of engagement in local politics) while kids in the US are more exposed to national politics with limited emphasis on the international sphere. Do you agree that this is the case, and if so, do you think this disparity has any significant consequences on the American youth’s worldview?

    • Hi Ayesha! You bring up an interesting point, I can definitely agree that people in the U.S. have a larger awareness on topics regarding national politics while neglecting international issues whereas those in the UAE have a greater understanding of both regional and international affairs. However, in the context of this post I was more so comparing a child’s scope of political knowledge in the U.S. vs the UAE. I noticed that at an elementary age kids in the U.S. are less aware of their country’s government or political power whereas students from the UAE expressed knowing (at least to some degree) about their country’s political power even in their youth. But in regards to your comment, I do agree this disparity on international knowledge among people in the U.S. and UAE exists and as a result I believe American youth has a very limited area of interest when considering politics and word issues. Rather than taking other countries into account when learning information or forming opinions, I believe that American youth tend to only take in knowledge as it impacts the U.S. This is consequential to the overall foundations of youth in the U.S. who already seem to have a reputation of lacking world knowledge. I hope this answers your question, thank you for your comment!

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