BY ALİ HAİDER (ARCH/IV)
For most of us, a new role in life presents a variety of challenges and some surprises, too. Advice from someone who’s already been there can help get us through the rough spots. In the case of university students, who better than seniors to offer the benefit of their experience?
This week, Maria Rabbani, a fourth-year International Relations student, gives advice as to how this year’s freshmen can make their university lives a bit easier and less complicated.
There are a lot of daunting aspects of being a freshman: getting lost while trying to find your next class; calling your professor by their first name; and getting your debit card declined at Starbucks. It happens to the best of us.
The advice I’d give to you, as a senior to an underclassman, is to be critical of the content you learn and to stay true to your unapologetic self. It’s important to note that in an institution like a university, you’ll find mainstream textbooks and authors, philosophers and sociologists with worldviews and theories about your race, religion or region that don’t quite match your own personal experience or understanding of it. I encourage you to question the default view and to be critical of the way in which academics look upon certain historical events, or theories. It’s in these classroom discussions with your professors and peers where it’s vital to speak up and speak out, to tenaciously reject these constructs and provoke discussion regarding them.
Locke’s failure to challenge slavery and Kant’s racial anthropology are examples of some areas of concern. Of more concern is the fact that writings and teachings about international relations (my department) are produced almost exclusively by writers from or based in the West. How does this influence our understanding? Think about the problematic internalizations that could come from this. If we think that there is some kind of a hierarchical relationship between a position and a biased perspective on an issue, broadening our understanding through engaging with more perspectives is the point we must begin with to diversify the sources we engage with in our scholarship. And it all starts with you asking a question or putting forth a new idea in your classroom.