Lina Löfstrand - Authorlina.firstname.lastname@example.org
Méline Parent - Illustratormeline.email@example.com
What are the odds that I am right about everything I believe? Who says that my views are necessarily the right ones? And how am I supposed to change and grow if I never challenge them?
I can easily envision a future spent with people just like myself. It’s a safe, comfortable one where I don’t have to grow as a person or step out of my comfort zone. Everywhere I turn, my views are reaffirmed, and with every day and every conversation, I am a little more secure about the fact that I know everything I need to know. Why would I need to challenge myself?
I used to believe that one day, I’d finally know everything. I’ve since realized that that’s not my goal anymore, and I don’t think it should be yours either. Obviously we should always strive to learn, but we also need to be open to changing the opinions we already have. And who better to teach us, and challenge us, than other human beings?
The first time I voted, I thought I was sure about my views. This past election, my vote had changed. I thought my views on things like taxes and welfare were fixed, until I took a politics class with people from all over the world and suddenly, nothing was certain anymore. The insight I got from an argentinian classmate, my roommate from Hong Kong, and my american teacher, I wouldn’t trade for anything. Even meeting people from other parts of Sweden, from other communities or interests, is a learning experience. It doesn’t always have to be serious either; from different people, I’ve learned to like new music, I’ve joined hobbies I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered, and I’ve tried some interesting food combinations, not all of them successful. And I’m grateful for all of it.
Here at KTH, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of international students, and at one point, I was one myself. It’s interesting having seen both sides of it, and I’ve noticed that in many cases, it’s hard to make that connection between Swedish and foreign students. It’s easy for us Swedes to stay in the comfort of our own chapters, not feeling a need to reach out for new connections. The chances of ever encountering each other is often left to the international students, who are in a new environment and who don’t really have a choice but to try and engage with new people. I’ve loved how open minded my international friends here are, how much they want to learn about my country and how much they’ve shared with me about theirs, and I’ve had a look at Stockholm and Sweden through their eyes.
I think a big problem right now is that us humans are so focused on ourselves and our surroundings that we don’t really see the people around us. We look to ourselves and people like us, and we view a lot of things as black or white; I am right and you are wrong, this is good and that is bad. I think many of us are guilty of forgetting to see other perspectives, of not considering that we might not be right all of the time. And it’s easy to be scared of new things, of foreign concepts and ideas, because it implies that we need to work on ourselves, that we have to think and reflect, maybe even change.
But it is so important to connect with people different from you. It widens your perspective and I really believe that it makes you a more open-minded and accepting person. It brings you out of your bubble and allows you to see the whole world, not just your own corner of it. Of course it’s nice to have people around you who you have a lot in common with, I agree with that. But you might be surprised at how much you can relate to that stranger who, at first glance, might be your complete opposite. You might find life-long friends out there, if you only dare to see them and know them.