During my fairly short time alive so far, I have lived in a variety of different environments and have been able to clearly see the differences in where I have lived. I was born all the way over in Los Angeles, California, before moving to Michigan and then to Atlanta, Georgia. All these movements were for my dad’s government job (for those curious, something high up in the Department of Veterans Affairs that I can’t remember the specifics of). Now I have embarked on a new journey, this time to Carlile Pennsylvania where I now attend Dickinson College (if I didn’t attend here, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post).
All of this is to say that I believe that I have experienced a fair number of differences and diversity during my short time alive. I’ve lived in radically different places across the country, from the land of movie stars and high rent to deindustrialization and urban decay to a land where any drive outside of a major city is bound to encounter at least a few Confederate flags. This is of course a large generalization of these areas, but they are still certainly diverse. There is no getting around that.
However, these places pale in comparison to the differences between where my exchange partners live.
Despite its many flaws, the United States is still a modern, industrialized, and generally free nation where people can speak their minds, and who are largely free from war and other forms of violence. One of the exchange students lived in Sudan before attending the international school in the UAE, which is a country that has been rocked by violence for the past few years and appears to be only increasing due to recent events. Another lived most of their life in an American compound in Saudi Arabia. That country has not faced the same levels of violence as other countries in the region but still suffers from a lack of numerous human rights, most predominantly women’s rights. The last of the international students apparently used to live in Syria which has been plagued by a civil war that has lasted over a decade by now. He mentioned having to move due to the war. That is something I have fortunately never had to deal with.
One of the most striking differences is in culture and religion. I personally am agnostic, while it appears that at least some of the exchange students are Islamic. This makes sense as we both live in entirely different regions. The climate of the Middle East is largely hot and dry, while the United States is very diverse. We of course have our fair share of hot and dry, but that is tempered with many other types of environments. We have hot and dry, hot and wet, cold and dry, cold and wet, and many variations and permutations of that. Environmental diversity may not seem at first to be that important, but it still can have a major impact on how we live and who we are.
When it comes to location, geography, environment, culture, politics, and many other factors there is a clear difference between me and the international students that I have encountered. However, despite all these factors, I would say that the exchange students and I have a lot in common. We both have at least some interests in international relations and probably political science more broadly, as we are all taking this class. From the short discussions I had with the group of exchange students, it also seems that we share at least some culture. For example, one of them made rap music and liked basketball. (I’m not a massive fan of either of those, but it does show that we are more similar than one might think). And ultimately, despite our differences, we are all human. How different can that make us be?