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We are one

Maria Fernandez | Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Contentious Politics course took an unexpected turn last Wednesday afternoon. Instead of meeting, like we regularly do, in Debartolo 214 to discuss current controversial events, we met in a small seminar room at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies to engage in an informal conversation with an undergraduate Palestinian student, now living in Jordan. “What would I learn from a student my age?” I thought to myself as I walked to the Kroc building. I had never met anyone from Jordan before, which seemed really interesting, but what else was I to expect from this casual conversation among us students?

To my surprise, this hour-and-a-half long exchange of ideas and experiences did not only show me diverse perspectives on how to approach this contentious conflict, but it most importantly reminded me of something I have always been amazed by and many times tend to forget or take for granted: we are one.  

There we were, 14 classmates and I, listening attentively to our guest student. All of us came from different states, nations, cultures and backgrounds; yet, we could understand and relate to each other’s opinions and experiences perfectly. In contrast to the Israeli-Palestinian hostility and lack of comprehension between both groups, our college experience is marked by friendly interactions with people from different upbringings and parts of the world. Every day our relationships become more and more diverse and globalized.

However odd this might sound, my iPod is great evidence of my continuous interactions with different groups of people since I came to Notre Dame. Coming from the small Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, my iPod was initially filled with Shakira, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin songs. I was satisfied with my music selections and thought I had more than enough songs to choose from and listen to.

Nevertheless, as my fun and busy college days and months go by, I keep meeting wonderful people from around the world and keep updating my iPod constantly. My playlists are now composed of peculiar but great mixtures of “salsa,” “merengue” and “reggeaton” with some European techno, pop, R&B and country rhythms. I share some of my Spanish tunes with my friends from the states and they keep me updated with new Ke$ha, Drake, John Mayer and Taylor Swift songs. This continuous interaction and sharing of ideas, experiences and, in this case, songs with people from all different types of backgrounds reflect what our college experience is all about. We may sometimes take for granted these amazing opportunities of getting to know others and getting out of our familiar comfort zones. But, it is in occasions like my recent politics class discussion with a Palestinian student that I realize and remember how lucky I am to be in a diverse campus where I can learn so much and create long-lasting friendships with people from varied cultures, nationalities, and religions.

In the end, all of our differences reconcile and we are able to combine our particular cultures and our original thoughts and beliefs with those of our new classmates and friends, just as the varied mix of songs in my iPod reveals.