It seems all too often these days, we are waking up to devastating news involving terror. There are so many terrors in the word every day that we don’t even hear about, but whenever it comes close to home, it makes it much more personal.
The more recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, Jakarta, Bangkok and in Turkey have shocked me the most: These are all places I have been or have seen myself going to, and I can’t help but feel that it could have been me among the hurt and injured, or any one of my dear friends from all around the world. If you live a life in which traveling frequently brings you the bulk of your happiness, unfortunately this seems to be a risk you face in today’s world. Here are a few of my personal views as a student abroad about how we can begin fighting terror in our own way.
A students perspective
It all began for me when I started my student life abroad, diving right into a bachelor’s degree in Finland in 2009. I have since then wrapped up a second bachelor’s degree in Finland in 2016, with a semester abroad in Indonesia under my belt to add to my study abroad experience.
During my 7 years of studying abroad, most of my free time has gone to traveling around Europe, Asia, Australia and a little bit around back home in North America. Although I continue to hear the news of terror attacks primarily targeted at innocent travellers, carried out by either ISIS or by other radicals who feel obligated to use violence to get their point across, and although my anxiety kicks in every time I get on an airplane, I refuse to submit to terror and stop travelling . You shouldn’t let these fears limit you either, and this is why:
How studying and traveling abroad changes us all
I am tired of hearing from articles online that terror is a valid reason not to study or travel abroad. For all of the young people out there who are currently weighing terrorism as a heavy con against studying abroad, I ask you to reconsider. For all the parents who are begging their children not to study or travel abroad, I ask you also to reconsider.
If I have learned anything at all during my time studying and traveling abroad with people from all over the world, it’s that these experiences are what shape our youth for the better. These experiences are the ones that will break our borders and destroy the grudges that go back way before this generation was even born.
Studying abroad with other international students from all over the world will teach you or your child an unbreakable love and respect for diversity, and will ultimately teach the world how to coexist over time. This generation has a gift that many generations before lacked: The ability to travel abroad more easily and more affordably than ever before. This gift is not just one that is given to its’ receiver, but it is also a gift for those who are touched by the wanderers.
I truly believe that the only way we can fight terrorism is with an emphasis on global education and intercultural understanding with an open mind. We need to let our youth break down the walls we have created, and we need to let them venture out into the world and understand just how small they are, no matter how risky or uncomfortable it may seem.
Let’s not limit ourselves in the face of a challenge, but rather, let’s continue to come together and embrace our neighbours with a clean slate and an open mind. Let’s embrace intercultural interactions as a learning environment rather than an obstacle, and take away as much as we can from those experiences.
The future lies with diversity
In these 7 years, I can say I have seen the future blooming everywhere I have had the honour of visiting. I see the future here in Finland: A start-up team proudly standing under the brand “Made In Finland” with smiling faces from as broad a range as Finland, Brazil, Pakistan, the USA and the Netherlands.
I have seen the future in Dubai: Meeting the passionate people who are educating students from all over the world in their classrooms, some hosting well over 100 nationalities!
I have seen the future everywhere in between when I have met new friends in hostels: That guy who was originally from France, off to a business meeting in Singapore to get funding for their company in Indonesia, or that guy originally from the USA, taking a break from his work in South Korea and exploring Hong Kong.
I have seen the future in Airbnb hosts who open up their own homes to complete strangers and create an environment ripe for cultural sharing. I dedicate the firm majority of my life skills from all those amazing people who embraced me with an open mind, and in return, opened my mind!
Yes, I truly believe that the future lies with diversity, and with those who are brave enough to take on the challenges of studying or living abroad along with the priceless experiences they receive in return.
The future lies with those who embrace all of the cultures they are lucky enough to interact with along the way, and who understand that being different is what makes us all beautiful in our own way.
It may seem like a scary world we are venturing out into, but it’s worth it, and it’s up to us to change the world one mind at a time in return as we carry out our journey.