International Politics of MENA Blog

Blog Post #1

The environment in which you grow up plays a vital role in how you view the world. Your values are heavily shaped by the people you are surrounded with and your experiences, through discussion with students in the UAE I found that some values, although experience is different, may be universal. 

I was born and raised in a small rural town in New Hampshire, insignificant to many, but the place I have called home for thirteen years of my life. I believe New Hampshire is the perfect inbetween the bustle of Massachuseetes and the crunchy culture of Vermont. The state is characterized by its experience of all four seasons having plenty of ways to interact with nature throughout the whole year. In New Hampshire, staying connected with nature was easy, with the large expanse of protected state parks, beaches, lakes, ski areas, and mountains. Living in the Lakes Region, during the summer, I regularly laid on the beach reading a book and tanning or making a trip farther north to hike the Appalachian Mountains. I spent many winters skiing all day at my favorite mountain, Cannon, or skating at Everett Arena. In many states, tourist attractions revolve around the major cities, but my home differs because people come to New Hampshire to escape the noise and relax. This is all to say, there was never a moment of boredom as long as I was willing to go outside and be active. 

Due to the rural nature of New Hampshire, many schools were small, underfunded, and crowded. This led to my parents, and many alike, enrolling me into Catholic High School for the last four years of my education. There I picked up new sports, met new friends, and was exposed to a community different from the one I grew up in. I spent most of my days in the city and enjoyed my new found freedom. 

Moving to Pennsylvania for school was a shock for me. Aside from leaving the place I have lived my whole life, I had completely landlocked myself. I went from a town where I lived on a lake and the closest beach was less than forty-five minutes away, to a state where lakes are sparse and beaches are non-existent. All the activities that I had enjoyed were no longer easily available and I was forced to pick up new hobbies.


During our conversations with students, I realized, that despite growing up in vastly different environments, many of our core values were the same. Through sharing objects that held some type of sentimental value, I identified a common theme: people tended to become attached to objects that reminded them of either their family or the place they belonged. This sense of belonging did not always directly correlate to where someone grew up but often was a place of family origin. Many individuals grew up in countries separate from where their parents had, but they still heavily connected and identified with this separate region. I found this similar to what many first-generation Americans feel. They often struggle with the balancing of both their ethnic and American identities. 

I found it interesting that the students in the UAE didn’t live in dorms. Many students in my groups had traveled at least thirty minutes to get to class. There are also many international students from English-speaking countries like the United States and New Zealand who don’t speak any Arabic. I found it surprising that the students who didn’t speak Arabic claimed to have no difficulty with the language barrier. While at Dickinson we have many international students, it is imperative for them, and required, to be proficient in English. 


  1. Rashid Basioni

    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal and thought-provoking insight into your upbringing. I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and perspectives on how one’s environment can shape one’s beliefs and values in the long run. Your initial statement that our upbringing significantly shapes who we become and the values we live by resonates deeply with me. I’d like to know your thoughts on whether any values are universally similar, regardless of where one grows up. It’s an interesting question, and I’d love to hear your perspective on it. Finally, I noticed that your response touches upon the nature vs. nurture debate, a fascinating topic related to the blog prompt. I’m interested in knowing more about your take on this matter in the context of your upbringing and how it has influenced your values and beliefs.

    • wheelemo

      Thank you! I believe a strong emphasis on the importance of family is a universal value that became apparent in my discussions with students from the UAE. Whether the connection was to their physical relatives or the place they called home, many people shared stories about their loved ones. On a more serious note, I think all people, internally, think harming others is wrong. This value is deeply rooted in human nature shaped by empathy and cultural values. What one may think is harmful is different across the world, but university people think harm is wrong. I never talked about nature v. nature in my blog post because I don’t feel like it affected me significantly while growing up. However, in the context of natural qualities interacting with the environment, I would say that the independence I was given growing up shaped me for success later in life, especially in college.

  2. Manal

    Thank you so much for this thoughtfully written post, Morgan; I feel like I got to learn more about you! I was especially struck by your comment on how the climate and geography of your hometown affected your hobbies. This is something I haven’t thought about at length before but, having grown up in Sharjah, I can relate. Sharjah is also a coastal city with a signature beach, but it is too hot most of the year for any year-long outdoor activities. Growing up, this meant that I became a very indoor creature. I shied away from outdoor activities, including sports, and this may also explain the larger culture of shopping malls that the UAE (Dubai, in particular) is famous for. We are indoor creatures in the UAE mostly out of necessity, and less so out of choice! You mentioned picking up ‘new hobbies’ in Pennsylvania and I was wondering what the equivalent of ‘going to the mall’ looks like for you there? Do people perhaps retreat indoors more and spend less time outdoors?

    • wheelemo

      Thank you for your comment! I never thought about heat being a restriction on going to the beach, but now that you mention it, it makes sense. I now have my car on campus so, I do often go to the mall when I need to, but I don’t go often. Instead many of my friends will walk into town and window shop at the thrift stores and little boutiques. On campus, many people still spend time outside whether it is sunbathing on Morgan Field, going for a bike ride, or watching the men’s lacrosse game. The outdoor activities I liked the most though are still absent. Hiking is not as good and beaches are not accessible. I have learned to enjoy walking in the neighborhoods a lot more. Plus, with the amount of schoolwork I have, I don’t have much free time anyway!

  3. javedarchitects

    Thankyou for sharing this blog

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