International Politics of MENA Blog

Author: wheelemo

Blogpost 2: Feb 19

“Others” in my Highschool

I attended a small Catholic high school in New Hampshire that fostered a tight-knit community, all from similar backgrounds. This resulted in very little diversity. Most students were white, upper-middle class, and had attended private schools their whole lives. Additionally, most of my peers were sheltered in all aspects of their lives, from the conditions of many public schools to their exposure to people from different groups. This fostered a community pretty unaccepting to outsiders. 

At my highschool, there was a strong culture of athletics, with almost every student, myself included, participating in a sport a season (3-sport varsity athlete). Athletics dominated the culture at the school, despite being small. Due to the sheer amount of participants in athletics, activities and most conversations centered around sports, the school put an emphasis on athletic involvement early on. Those who didn’t partake in sports often felt like outsiders, as friend groups were heavily influenced by the sports individuals played and whether they were in season.

This environment was beneficial for athletes, as it fostered strong bonds with teammates and other athletes in the same sport. However, it marginalized those who didn’t participate, relegating them to a small group on the outskirts of the social scene, labeled as the “others.” They were largely ignored, not out of malice but, due to a lack of perceived common ground. They main interest of most highschoolers, sports, was not shared. Non-athletic individuals were sometimes viewed as less valuable, despite dedicating similar time to extracurricular activities outside of athletics. Peers made assumptions about them, assuming they did nothing else outside of school and mocking them for prioritizing academics or other pursuits.

This dynamic of “self” and “other” within communities can be seen in broader contexts, affecting perceptions in international and domestic politics. This sense of “self” and “other” can be extended to international politics where certain nations or groups can be marginalized or perceived as “others.” This perception can stem from many sources, often, cultural differences, economic disparities, or historical conflicts. Just as non-athletic individuals were marginalized in my high school, certain countries may be marginalized on the global stage, leading to unfair treatment in relations. An example of this could be the Tigris-Euphrates water conflict where Turkey, with its ability to control the water flow can be seen as the “self” prioritizing its interest. Syria and Iraq, downstream countries who are dependent on the water flow, were marginalized as the “others,” facing water scarcity and environmental challenges due to Turkey’s actions. This unequal power dynamic mirrors the marginalization of non-athletic students in my high school, highlighting how perceptions of “self” and “other” can manifest.



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. 



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