Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United Stated at the latest, many of us are puzzled, if not outright scared. Racism, sexism, and discrimination seem not only to be tolerated, but actually encouraged and legally implemented under this presidency. And as a German I am sitting here and thinking to myself: Wait, we’ve seen this before, and it did not end too well.
I follow the news every day with a mix of fear, surprise, and shock. I am deeply saddened and outraged by the recent encouragement of hate, about the terrible policies that are just starting to become reality, and about the anguish and discomfort that many people affected have to endure all over the world.
As an international student, as a citizen of this world, and as a profound believer in justice and equality I am writing this to encourage you not to fall for quick and easy solutions, to be critical towards current developments, even if you think they ultimately support political agendas you favor, and to enter the world with an open mind and heart. I want to tell you about the advantages of seeing the world, meeting different people, learning from them, and want to encourage you to form your own opinions based on these experiences alone, detached from political influences and growing populism.
Studying abroad as a way to more tolerance
In face of the recent developments, and as a means to tolerance and understanding, I want to wholeheardedly encourage you to take the opportunity and study abroad. As someone who has now lived in five different countries, I can just say that nothing has enriched me as much as these experiences. I had the chance to see and experience different cultures first hand, to see the most beautiful (and some of the ugliest) parts of the world and its societies.
But above all I have had conversations with people from all around the world, that gave me an openess and tolerance that I would have never acquired if I had just stayed home. Especially here in Sweden I had the chance to meet people from all around the world. The cultural diversity at Swedish Universities is enriching every discussion, will often make you wonder and question your own beliefs, and in the end give you broad perspectives and the ability to think outside the box. You will have the chance to hear stories from Syrians who fled the war and you will be able to ask your Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Atheist classmate about their beliefs. You will also have the chance to discuss your views with people from a different context and be able to challenge yourself, and grow in the process. Beyond that, Sweden in particular is a place that offers a very progressive and open study envorinment, being especially concerened with topics like sustainability, human rights, and equality.
So please, if you can, take the chance, step out of your comfort zone, study abroad, and get to know people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Make your own experiences and form your own opinions about different cultures, beliefs, and religions rather than being captured by the dogmatic fashism that is currently increasing in our world. And I am convinced that you will come to the same conclusion as me: that we are all just humans. That no matter what we look like, who or what we believe in, who or what we love, we are all people who deserve the same chances in life, the same opportunities, and rights, but at the very least deserve to be respected as human beings.
What YOU can do
With the political superpowers of the world promoting hateful agendas all over many of us may wonder: What can I actually do to change all this? And until I have figured out my master plan to save the world (and believe me I am trying) here is my advice: Be kind. Be openminded. Be tolerant. Be respectful. Be interested. Be active.
Speak up in situations of injustice even if it may not be against you directly; Equality is important for everyone, and just because you were lucky enough to be born into the priviliged situation of not having to worry about being discriminated against (right now), you are not relieved you from the duty to stand up in times of injustice. March with those deprived of their rights even if it may not directly disadvantage you, because ultimately, its all of our rights that are being threatened.
We are the next generation. We are the generation who travel more than any generation before us. We are the generation Erasmus who have the chance to study abroad and have the time of our lives. We are the generation who have connections, experiences, and friends all over the world and benefit from that immensely.
And this is why we are the ones who have to stand together and show that this is not the kind of world we want to live in. We have to show that we value diversity, tolerance, multiculturalism, and that we will fight to make this the reality rather than merely an ideal.
On a last note…
And on a very last note, if you are reading this and you are one of the people who suffer from injustice and discrimination and you are thinking about moving abroad; I cannot guarantee you that here you will not have to endure unfair treatment and discrimination because of the way you look, your sexual orientation, your religious or political beliefs, or whatever else. But I can guarantee that there are a great many people like me, who move abroad to meet new people, learn about different cultures, have conversations with you about anything and everything, and that we will stand with you in these times of injustice. That we will treat you with tolerance and respect and try to keep up a world in which we can all find our little space to be happy.
In its most literal sense: Peace!
(Picture from: http://www.recordingachievement.ac.uk/international.html)