Examining social revolution from an international student’s perspective.
What happens when you are an international student and things back home are going south? What happens if you open Instagram one day and everyone’s posts are about social revolution? What happens if your family calls and tells you that the streets are filled with people marching, people vandalizing and threatening, and people being injured and harmed? You feel powerless. You probably want to stop it, but there is nothing you can do.
Do you even get a voice, seeing as you are not physically touched by the conflict? Perhaps you don’t even know the roots of what is happening. As an international student with a whole new life to figure out in a different country, I sometimes forget to stay in touch with the news and media of my country. My only source of information is the calls I have every couple of days with my parents and interactions on social media.
To give a bit of context, the political and social situation in Latin America has been destabilized by peaceful protests that have been turning violent. In Colombia, protests in major cities began due to the violence and crimes against Indigenous communities and social leaders, and reforms to the pension and education systems.
Even though I recognize how historic it is for over a million people to be protesting peacefully in the streets of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, and that peaceful protest is a right of the citizen, it is also true that these sorts of protests open a gateway for anger, violence, and crime.
I am not apathetic to the struggles my country faces as I am sure a lot of international students are not. We recognize how privileged we are because we get the opportunity to be here and open our minds to different perspectives. We recognize this privilege and are grateful every day because it took hard work to get here and it takes hard work to remain here.
Being away from home not only from the physical touch and support from our loved ones, but also from the taste of our food, from the sound of our music blasting from every stereo, from streets that resound with our mother tongue… it is a lot to take in.
Now imagine dealing with all of this, on top of a bleeding country, burning cities, polarized compatriots. I needed to voice my opinion. The voice of the peaceful protesters has been heard, but now the country and its institutions are being destroyed. It is not fair for the country to be in flames just because both protesters and government continue to polarize the country with sensationalist images that incite more violence.
What can we gain with more violence? What can we gain by telling people not to trust in their own institutions and thus continue to spawn fear? As an English major, I am all for critical thinking and I know that questioning social structures is indispensable to achieve a more just society. However, polarization coming from both “sides” are turning pacific protests into violence, and if they need to stop, they need to stop.
This does not mean I don’t care. This means that even from all the way here, I think about my country and my people every day. I especially think about my friends and family whom I love and whom I speak for today. No more violence, no more fear.
To the domestic students reading this, I hope you made it all the way to the end; knowing all the different experiences that surround you is extremely valuable in order to form a coherent and informed worldview based on empathy and open-mindedness.
To all the international students, I hope that more of us start sharing our different experiences and opinions about the situations of our countries, be it good or bad; and I hope you know that there are others feeling the same way you are, people that care about these issues. To the UBCO community, let’s start having these tough conversations so that we can really encompass what it means to be an intercultural campus with a supportive environment.