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.