Knowledge crossing borders

OPINION

Bella Papadopoulou Doborowlska

A wise man once said that people that don’t travel, only read the first page of the book. I always think about this whenever I feel homesick and nostalgic for my home in Sweden. Having lived abroad for nearly five years now as a student I can say, with my hand on my heart, that it has been a good ride. I had just turned 18 years when I decided that it was time to spread my wings and fly. And fly I did. All the way to sunny Greece, where I began my journalism studies under the spiritual intellectual presence of Aristotele and Socrates.

When they say that life is unpredictable they are certainly not joking around and somehow, after having spent nearly four years in Greece, I found myself with a scholarship in my backpack and a ticket in my hand with a destination saying: the other end of the world. I arrived in Australia three months ago in order become a part of their academic society. Every year thousands of ambitious youngsters cross the borders of they call «The land down under» to soak in knowledge.

If it is something that both sociologists and psychologists find common ground on, it is the fact that leaving your comfort zone and moving abroad (either for studies or work) is utterly valuable for you, both on a personal but also on a cultural level. This has also proven having relevance in terms of social issues such as racism. When living inside a new culture, you raise understanding and respect for its people. Estelle D’escalier, a great french philosopher once said «tout comprender ces’t tout pardoner», which means that you need to understand something in order to be able to forgive it. Racism is born out of fear and anger against other cultures and the lack of «forgiveness» that not everyone thinks of the world the same way as you do.

Studying abroad I have personally achieved a great deal of understanding for intercultural ideas and traditions from various countries. The Australian academic society in particular has a big multicultural flora within it and this is what makes it so interesting. Everyday at school is like a trip around the world for me. I believe that being an international or exchange student is an even greater way of raising the awareness of multiculturalism. When you are a student, everyone has the same intention as you do: education. Having this as our common ground we are all in the same boat and this eliminates the differences and enables the students to think of their foreign fellow students as friends.

The millennium brought us closer to a globalised and united world. Today a new intercontinental generation is born, cultures are mutated and borders only mean thin lines on a map. Personally, I grew up in a multi ethnic home having three cultures around the dinnertable: Swedish, Polish and Greek. The one-man Anglosaxo culture with organization as keyword, the Slavic tradition that bloomed out of the spirit of solidarity and, last but not least, the Greek Mediterranean mentality that is based on finding happiness inside the chaos. Three very contrasting cultures that somehow found a peaceful way to coexist.

Growing up, everyone always used to tell me how fortunate I am to be brought up in a rich cultural diversity. It is true, but as nature intended it to be there is always a bad side of everything. For me, my mixed ambiance has lead me to being rootless. I have not developed that one and only gene that makes you feel a part of one country and culture. Everywhere I am always foreign. No national anthem to sing, no place to call home. I am forced to live in «no mans land» where the sea doesn’t belong to any country.

Of course on the other hand,  I have been given the gift of understanding and this is of indescribable value. Not only can you gain this through being born into a home like mine, but through packing your books and study abroad. It is an unforgettable experience that can’t bring anything else but a «you» and a «me» into a «we».

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