Reading the news this weekend I realised how little we know about the world we live in. As cliché as it probably sounds, this is terrifyingly true. And the worst is not only that we don´t know enough, which most of us don´t (for the majority of people the main source of information is television, which can barely show a few minutes of the tiny bits of reality that can actually be filmed), but also that we don´t think too much about what we see or read. We are scarily deeply immunised to the world´s problems, suffer and crisis. As long as they don´t affect us, we are good.
Nowadays there´s so much information bombarding us that, combined with the fact that we are always running and busy with work, study or our social life, it seems there´s not enough time to care about what happens in such far away places like Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya or recently Yemen.
Why would we worry about the dozens of people dying everyday in Africa or Western Asia and Middle East either of hunger or fighting a civil war against some of the most horrific and bloody dictators still surviving the 21st century, when we have a 3,000 word essay due next week and two chapters to read for tomorrow?
And we probably don´t care too much because it seems aloof and irrelevant. We might think for a minute “that ´s terrible,” and a second later swap channel thinking our favourite programme is about to start. No matter how harsh an event, situation, or image is television culture has taught us that it just takes a click of a bottom to switch to a much nicer reality. Video seems also to have lost its original impact as a medium. Movies, science fiction and the development of highly sophisticated and state of the art special effects have played tricks on our minds, making us see and sense things in a very different- much less dramatic way.
Moreover by nature we will always tend to worry about the things or situations that affect, impact, or relate to us, or someone we are close to, in some sort of way, rather than in the world´s problems. Whereas it is because of the so called survival instinct impregnated in our blood from the very beginnings of time or because of the detached, cold- hearted society we now live in, it seems human beings are naturally selfish.
It is just when you start meeting and talking with people from other latitudes that you actually start learning a little bit more of other realities and countries. And it is probably then when you start caring a bit more, because those countries or continents are no longer just countries or continents. They now have a face. And that is the face of your Kenyan or Romanian classmate, or the Turkish, Lithuanian, Pakistani, Chinese (or any other nationality) student you met once in a trip or with who you went clubbing or got drunk with.
One of the best and richest experiences of being an international student is precisely the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. It gives you perspective and makes you realise that no matter what country you are from, there will always be stereotypes to fight and you will find out how little most people know about your country.
Hanging around with other international students is therefore not only a natural thing to do because you have concerns and experiences in common to share with, but also a great chance to get involved and develop a bigger awareness of the world we live in. In practical terms this doesn´t mean we have to protest in the streets or change our lives. But I´m sure that if we were all a tad more informed and contributed now and then in some sort of way with a social cause we could actually make this planet a little bit better.
Cardiff offers many possibilities for doing charity work. Getting involved in an NGO is also a great way to meet people from different backgrounds and nationalities. UNA Exchange has volunteering programmes all over Europe and other latitudes and there are also a great number of charities in and around Wales and Cardiff. It just takes a little time and will to decide what you want to do and when. And the best thing is that it helps both, to make a difference and to enrich your resume. If you are a new student or just finished your course and have some free time there´s no better moment to get started and do something to help others.
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