Global Recognition, the power of perspective   Leave a comment

I took Dr. Nawawy’s Middle Eastern Media class in my freshmen year.  At first, I was intimidated by the 300 level course code, but Dr. Nawawy assured me that I could handle the demands of the course.  He immediately began assigning hundreds of pages of reading at a time.  The course used a number of recourses such as a myriad of academic journals regarding the current state of the various Middle Eastern nations, online articles that included graphic news stories, as well as a book about the Middle Eastern news station Al-Jazeera that Dr. Nawawy wrote himself.  Dr. Nawawy assigned all of this reading in the first portion of the semester so that he could prepare his students for their participation in the experimental educational program Soliya.

Soliya is an organization dedicated to the promotion of discourse amongst young adults from across the world.  Professors’ sign up their students for the program, and the program facilitators develop a number of topics for their student groups to discuss.  This program was such an eye-opening experience for me; I had never had the opportunity to discuss politics with students from Europe and the Middle East before.  When I started the Soliya program in the second half of the semester, I remember silently thanking Dr. Nawawy for assigning such a tremendous amount of reading because it forced me to learn about a completely different culture.  The students that were assigned to my group came from a number of countries and continents; there was a girl from Germany, a guy from Moracco, a set of fraternal twins from Pakistan, and many more.  We had a number of discussions about various topics like the US military involvement in the Middle East, the horrors of the attacks of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, as well as more entertaining topics like the latest soccer (or football) scores.    This was such a unique experience, none of my friends at other colleges participated in a program anything close to Soliya.

What a Soliya conference looks like

What a Soliya conference looks like

One of the things that Dr. Nawawy would repeat in class was “try to think from their perspective.”  I thought that was sound advice because the entire point of Soliya was to build international bridges of communication.  There were times where I was criticized for the nationality of my passport, but rather than retaliate with a regurgitated response about ensuring freedom and democracy for citizens across the globe, I would try to interpret the United States intervention as a local Pakistani citizen, which would lead to the general understanding that while the US might have good intentions, their presence draws the attention of organizations like Al-Qaeda, who often target Pakistani citizens in their attempts to harm the US military.  Without participating in Soliya, I never would have been able to think so unbiasedly.  Middle Eastern Media was such a critical class in my college career because it connected me to the foreign news press.  By monitoring news stations like BBC and Al-Jazeera, I have accumulated a better understanding of the world that I live in today.    

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Posted February 21, 2013 by Big Man in Capstone Reflections

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