The Forum

Commentary

Stefan Sultan, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I woke up the morning of June 12 to a notification from the Associated Press that 49 people had been killed during a shooting at a nightclub in Florida. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I was sad to hear about the lives lost, but ever since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I have become somewhat desensitized to the seemingly frequent mass shootings in the U.S.

It was only when I learned that this shooting had happened at a gay nightclub that I began to cry. In that moment, I realized this had not been just an act of terror but an act of hate directed at the LGBT community.

Because she was gay, Kimberly Morris never made it home on June 12. Because of one victim’s sexual orientation, his father refused to claim his body. Because they were at an establishment that not only accepted members of the LGBT community, but welcomed them with open arms, 49 people were killed in cold blood.

The nightclub shooting in Orlando was not the first time the LGBT community has been the target of hate or violence. But some of us in the LGBT community are too young to remember darker times our community faced. We have never experienced police raids at gay bars or watched a presidential administration turn a blind eye to the AIDS epidemic.

The attack in Orlando shocked us. After all, young LGBT people live in a world where police officers propose to their boyfriends during pride parades, the U.S. president supports LGBT rights and the Supreme Court recognizes our right to marry.

Despite the progress that the LGBT community has made, the Pulse nightclub shooting still shouldn’t be unimaginable, because some people are filled with hatred for LGBT individuals today. This tragedy was likely fueled by homophobia, which has become prolific enough throughout our public discourse and political policy that as victims of the massacre lay in hospital beds in desperate need of blood transfusions, gay and bisexual men were banned from helping fellow members of their community.  

As many conservative politicians said they stood with us and condoned the attack at Pulse, they failed to mention that gay and bisexual men had to watch their LGBT peers bleed out without being able to donate blood. In many ways, that was the cruelest irony.

U.S. blood donation guidelines currently state that men must wait an entire year after having sex with another man before they are allowed to donate blood. One would imagine that this guideline would be rooted in facts, rather than in ignorance and fear. Yet there is no scientific proof to back up the ban on gay and bisexual men’s blood donations. And although the current guideline replaced a previous lifetime ban, the current protocol still serves as a de facto lifetime ban for most gay and bisexual men.

It is true that it may have made sense to restrict blood donations at the height of the AIDS / H.I.V. epidemic in the 1980’s. At that time, we didn’t have the technology to screen blood quickly or understand the source of the virus. But today, the ban is indefensible.

Ever since I was 17 – old enough to donate blood – I always volunteered for blood drives at high school. Despite the brief discomforts of giving blood, I’ve always felt that the lifesaving benefits outweigh the the momentary pain. As such, for much of my young adult life, I proudly donated my blood – until I became barred because of my sexuality.

When I came out to my entire high school school during a meeting for worship – a time of silent meeting we had at my Quaker school – I stood up and paraphrased Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If it is true that the arc of the moral universe is long, yet it bends towards justice, then it is my hope that one day this coming out will no longer be necessary nor courageous, and that it will be just as normal for a kid to say they are gay as it is to say that they are straight.”

I’m luckier than many LGBT people because I’ve grown up in a time when acts of hate, such as the one in Orlando, seem antithetical to the seemingly gay-friendly spirit of the 21st century. Yet as I sat and watched the bloodshed in Orlando, I was reminded that I couldn’t even do my part to help.

When my friend and I arrived in New York for the New York City Pride Parade last year we were ecstatic. Not only was it our first pride parade, but the Supreme Court had just extended marriage equality to all 50 states just two days before. Finally, it had seemed, that full equality had been extended to all LGBT Americans and all of New York was ready to celebrate.

My mood on that day was markedly different from this year’s Pride. As I began to make my way uptown, fully decked out in every rainbow piece of apparel I owned, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. Given the events at Orlando, and the fact that I was completely alone, I began to wonder if I should just take a taxi to the location my friend and I had agreed on. Despite my nerves, I decided I would probably be fine walking.

As I continued to walk, I passed a woman who turned to me with a giant smile and emphatically exclaimed “Happy Pride!” At first I was taken aback. For some reason, this kind gesture was not something that I was expecting after the Orlando shooting. After taking a moment to comprehend what this person had just said to me I smiled back and said “Happy Pride.”

As I walked away, I teared up for what was at least the 10th time since the shooting. Yet this time my tears were not caused by a horrific and needless act of hate, but from the random, however small, act of kindness from a stranger. While homophobia and hate may never be fully defeated, we can take steps to lessen them, whether through kind words to a stranger or through legislation ending the ban on gay blood donations.

I still believe that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, no matter how long it may seem after events like those in Orlando. It is in pursuit of the seemingly unremitting quest to reach the end of that arc that we must take action.

While there is still a long way until we reach the end of the arc of the moral universe, one way to start is to finally end the archaic ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” So go. Call your senator, write your Congressperson and get in touch with your state representatives. And when November comes around, vote for those who will fight to end the ban on blood donations.

The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it will still take work to get there.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016 8:50 p.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:

A D.C. chef is using cooking skills to stop gun violence. 

Recent gun-related violence has prompted Beuchert’s Saloon Executive Chef Andrew Markert to organize a fundraiser called “Forks Up, Guns Down” to benefit the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Washington City Paper reported Monday. The CSGV is a nonprofit umbrella group that consists of 47 national organizations that work to reduce gun violence through research and political advocacy.

The event will be held July 31 and will feature food from Bar Pilar’s Jesse Miller, Sixth Engine’s Kyle Bailey, The Hamilton’s Anthony Lombardo, as well as drinks from guest bartenders including The Dabney’s Tyler Hudgens.

Beuchert’s Saloon had hoped to raise $5,000 for the CSGV by selling 100 tickets to the event for $50 apiece. Tickets have already sold out.

While no significant gun control legislation has passed despite the recent events of gun violence, it is encouraging to see that people on the other side of the Hill are doing their part to make a difference, and being creative about it.

Thumbs down:

The District may have the most to lose from a Donald Trump presidency.

In the Republican Party’s official platform released Monday, the party rejected the idea of D.C. statehood and budget autonomy, Washington City Paper reported. The District’s statehood “can be advanced only by a constitutional amendment” and that “any other approach would be invalid,” according to the platform.

The Washington Post referred to the language used in the document as “the most forceful anti-statehood language in decades.”

Despite the platform, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser continued with her push for statehood and traveled to Cleveland Tuesday to visit the Republican Convention to lobby for D.C. statehood, the Washington Post reported.

Although D.C. shadow senator Paul Strauss said that Bowser was recognized and welcomed at the convention, it is likely her calls for statehood will do little to sway those in support of the platform.

The Republican Party’s anti-statehood views contrast those of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has said she will advocate for D.C. statehood. Passing statehood for the District is also in the draft of the Democratic platform.

Whether or not the president supports statehood may ultimately not have a significant effect on enacting statehood. But it may give D.C. residents another reason to support one candidate over another.

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Laura Castro Lindarte, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I woke up in a panic: My clock read 6:30 a.m. and I should have been awake an hour ago to make it to my class on time. But then I realized classes were over for the summer, and that I could go back to sleep. What started as a happy realization very quickly turned into boredom.

As the day went by, I realized that I had nothing to do. After watching YouTube videos for half an hour, I glanced at my phone only to see that I had several hours to go before anyone came home to hang out with me. I realized quickly that I missed taking my courses, because I missed having something to do, even if it meant waking up early and sitting through three two-hour classes everyday.

I’m sure many GW students understand this bizarre feeling of relief mixed with boredom when the semester ends. You no longer need to worry about handing in homework assignments or waking up early, but you struggle to find something productive to do with your time. I have felt that even more intensely while I am abroad than I would have at home.

At the end of this past semester at GW, I went through a brief time where I was bored, but I was lucky: I was only home for a short period before I headed to Colombia for the bulk of my summer. Now that I have a lot of free time, I’m just now feeling what my GW peers went through weeks ago.

The feeling is felt even more by students who just finished their freshman year. We go from adjusting to a world of near-constant stress during the semester to having no pressing deadlines after finals. It’s a huge change that is especially hard when we are going through the adjustment after our first year of college. We miss being surrounded by people our own age and the independence we gained and our own routines.

I’ve often wondered why students get bored when we have nothing to do. Maybe for some students who go home for the summer, it’s the realization that they have lost touch with high school friends. Because I went abroad right after the school year ended, I didn’t have to worry about readjusting to being at home. When I was still enrolled in my course here in Colombia, I was always busy. Now that my workload has disappeared, I feel empty. Apart from adding a few lines to a resume or making some money over the summer, it’s no wonder why so many of us get internships or jobs for something to do.

I’ll be in Colombia with my family for another month, so while other GW students are halfway through their summer jobs and internships, my struggle to find something to keep me occupied starts now.

School can often feel like a whirlwind, so it’s hard to get used to life without feeling stressed all the time. For the rest of the summer, I intend to become more immersed in the residential community here in Colombia. I might take another class or just spend time with my family and new friends.

No matter where you are this summer, you’re probably learning the same lesson that I am: Relaxing can lead to boredom, so it’s important to find rewarding ways to fill your time.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016 3:15 p.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:

The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bike and pedestrian safety bill without debate.

If the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act is approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser, walkers and bikers who are found to be partially at fault for crashes will be able to recover up to 100 percent of their losses from medical bills and property damage, the Washington City Paper reported Tuesday.

This is a step in the right direction, because the bill would increase the chances of crash victims being able to seek compensation. Currently, D.C. prohibits crash victims from receiving compensation if they are found to be even one percent at fault, which makes it nearly impossible to recover monetary damages after an accident.

The bill still requires a second vote by the Council before it goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser, but the unanimous support it received in its first vote makes us think it will probably become D.C. law. Bowser even said she supports the bill in a recent tweet.

Although this bill will not reduce the risks of walking or biking on busy urban streets, it will make the law more fair for bikers and walkers who are involved in crashes.

Thumbs down:

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly in the Council for a paid family leave bill.

D.C. lawmakers have been working since last fall to push a bill that would make the District the most generous place in the country for a person to take time off after having a child.

The D.C. Council will now recess without further action on the bill until at least September.

Sixteen weeks of paid time off had been proposed under the family-leave plan, and hundreds of would-be parents testified before the D.C. Council that the proposal would make having children much less stressful and would allow them to adequately bond with their newborns. The plan would also allow people to take time off to care for dying parents and significant others.

Several would-be parents even told lawmakers that they would wait to have children until the law is passed because they would want to take that much time off, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Although well-received by D.C. residents, the Council members found that the numbers just didn’t add up. They are still contemplating a few questions: How many workers in D.C. would take advantage of the law? How many years of a new tax would D.C. have to accumulate before the government could cover the costs?

With the bill now delayed, the earliest this benefit could be sufficiently funded and offered to city residents is 2018.

Those D.C. residents who are holding off on starting families until the law passes could be waiting forever.

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Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor. 

I’ve been a female college student for over two years now. Although most of my fears about college have subsided, there’s one thing that hasn’t – the fear of sexual assault on campus. But I’ve always been comforted knowing that if something happened to me, I would be able to choose exactly how to move forward. For thousands of college students in Virginia, that choice will be reduced later this year.

Last week Virginia passed a law that will take effect on Oct. 1 that takes away college sexual assault survivors’ right to choose whether or not to open a criminal investigation against their assailants. The new law mandates that any Virginia university employee who learns of an act of sexual violence must report that to a Title IX review committee, and that committee must report criminal sexual assault cases to a local Commonwealth attorney within 48 hours – without the survivor’s consent.

In comparison, GW’s sexual assault policy states that “filing a formal complaint does NOT mean that you have filed a criminal (police) report,” which means the Title IX office can respond to a sexual assault report without involving law enforcement. But now in Virginia, university officials could take a sexual assault report to state law enforcement officials on their own.

Supporters of the law might say it protects survivors by making sure justice is served against the assailants. But still, the law takes away survivors’ control. Forcing school officials to tell on survivors for coming forward to university employees creates a distrustful atmosphere. Laws like this don’t ensure justice will be served, and they may discourage survivors from sharing their stories at all.

There are many reasons that all sexual assault survivors don’t press criminal charges with state police. Some don’t want to face their assailants or don’t want to constantly recall the assault to countless investigators and officers. Regardless of the “why,” it makes little sense that state officials would force school officials to report sexual assault cases to a state attorney without survivors’ consent.

This law will not only affect people with permanent residency in Virginia. Because this law is directed at college campuses, visitors at one of Virginia’s many universities will be subject to the law. As a woman who visits the University of Virginia often, I feel like I’m losing some of my rights. If I was sexually assaulted while on that campus, I would want the right to decide to file a criminal investigation. I would want the choice to disclose what happened to an official at the university without being questioned by the police. And people across the country should fight for college students in Virginia to have that right – not to have their governor and state government officials take it away.

Survivors should not be silenced. Survivors deserve the choice to tell a counselor at student health services what happened and to get the care they need. Survivors deserve the choice to tell an adviser or professor what they’ve gone through. And they deserve for those conversations to remain private.

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Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:  

If the current draft of the Democratic Party’s platform holds through the Democratic convention, D.C would be one step closer to being the 51st U.S. state.

While local officials have campaigned for years for D.C. to be recognized as a state and have votes in Congress, this would be the first time the issue came up as a major national topic. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, endorsed D.C. statehood a few months ago. But it wasn’t until July 1 that D.C. statehood was endorsed by a major political party.

According to a draft of the Democratic Party’s platform released July 1, the national Democratic Party would pass statehood, so D.C. citizens “have full and equal congressional rights as well as the right to have the laws and budget of their local government respected without Congressional interference.”   Currently, D.C. residents only have one Congressional representative, and she isn’t allowed to vote – which means that D.C. residents have no say in almost any federal issue. Just take a look at the District’s license plates that read “taxation without representation.”

Although this platform draft is provisional and could be changed before the convention on July 25th, it’s a turning point in the fight for statehood. In April, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser called for a city-wide vote to decide if the District should become the 51st state. The vote city-wide vote could be held as early as November, but D.C. officials still have to create a state constitution.

Of course, putting this in the platform doesn’t guarantee statehood. First, the Democratic Party would have to win the presidency and then actually hold a vote to grant D.C. statehood. But this development does at least start the debate over what the 51st state’s name could be.

Thumbs down:

Those of us in D.C. saw the fireworks try to fight their way through the hazy and cloudy skies Monday night, but rather than watching bursting fireworks overhead, we just saw the clouds change colors. People near and far who tuned into PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth” saw a wondrous firework show that featured clear skies and a Capitol building without scaffolding – even though any D.C. resident or Capitol Hill intern could easily correct you that the scaffolding is still there.

The broadcast  was advertised as live, but viewers almost immediately realized that PBS was using canned fireworks footage.

Of course, viewers turned to Twitter to express their outrage over the pre-recorded fireworks. Although PBS quickly apologized for the gaffe and said they made the decision “was the patriotic thing to do,” the entire event left some fireworks enthusiasts upset.

But there is still one thing television viewers got that those of us who stood on the National Mall did not – a fireworks show they could actually see.

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Laura Castro Lindarte, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I have judged people. Not because I think it’s right, but because despite my best efforts, my prejudices get the best of me. And anyone can understand that. For me, I’ve always held prejudices against the Colombian guerrilla militant group, FARC, which is known for violent attacks against civilians and soldiers in Colombia, where I am spending the summer and where my family is from. I expected current and former FARC members to be evil, but I found out first-hand that they all are not.

The FARC developed in the 1940’s as a group of left-wing extremists. What started as a political movement turned into a violent military movement that profits from drug trades, kidnappings and extortion. Based on those actions, the assumption is that the people involved in the movement are all-around bad.

But that stereotype did not hold true after I sat in a room with four ex-members of the FARC in the Colombian Agency for Reintegration headquarters. The pretty young woman sitting in front of me was nothing like the violent person I have pictured.

The young woman joined the FARC when she was 13 years old because it was the norm in her small town. She was captured by the Colombian army on her way home, after she decided she didn’t want to be part of the FARC anymore. Since then, she earned a degree in mass communication and got married, and now she is attending law school.

The people who I met showed me that they were not monsters at their cores, or that they are even very different than I am.

But the prejudices in Colombia about ex-FARC members, like the ones I used to hold, have made it difficult for demobilized guerrilla group members to reintegrate into society. I learned that many have been fired from their civilian jobs when their bosses found out they were part of the group. 

It’s hard for us in the U.S. to understand this intense level of prejudice seeded in violence, because we haven’t dealt with a civil war at this scale in our lifetimes. But this level of prejudice is a reality for young people in Colombia.

The prejudices against former FARC members will become a bigger issue in the near future when about 7,000 ex-FARC members demobilize, following an agreement to cease fire. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my class in Colombia, it is that Colombian society is going to face many obstacles once peace does come, and the country can’t overcome those challenges if Colombians continue to hold these prejudices.

It won’t be an easy task: Countries with less domestic violence, like the U.S., have faced the challenges of prejudice. But overcoming our prejudices isn’t an impossible task, which I learned when I met some ex-FARC members.

When I sat and listened to them talk, I felt my distrust disappear. Once the talk was over, I thanked them for sharing their stories with us. Everyone, whether Colombians or GW students, should take simple steps to understand the people behind the prejudices we hold. You can ask to hear one person’s story, which could very well break down some of the stereotypes you have built up.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016 5:11 p.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:

University researchers now have the money to help the almost 23 million people suffering from heart failure worldwide.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health have granted $1.6 million to University researchers for heart failure research, according to a release. The grant will fund a four-year project that will study ways to increase parasympathetic activity in the heart.

Parasympathetic activity occurs in the heart during relaxing activities like reading, according to David Mendelowitz, the vice chair of the pharmacology and physiology department. Such activity protects the heart and may be able to aid the body during heart failure.

Researchers from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science will work together on the project.

Currently, there are very few treatments that can effectively increase parasympathetic activity to the heart, but GW now has a chance to make medical history.

GW is known for attracting politically-minded students to its international affairs, political science and journalism programs, but has struggled more in appealing to budding doctors and engineers. With potentially game-changing research being done right on our campus, the University now has one more cool thing to boast about on tours and pamphlets to prospective STEM majors.

Thumbs down:

Still think the water in school water fountains is gross? Turns out it may not be very safe, either, if you’re in D.C.

Recently, D.C. tested public schools’ water for lead, and more than 60 schools were found to have high levels of the chemical element, according to the Washington City Paper. The samples were taken from various water sources, including fountains and classroom sinks.

There are 113 public schools in the District, meaning over half of the public school system’s water sources are at or above the federal action level, which is the point at which officials must take steps to deal with the lead.

In April, District officials admitted that water sources had to be turned off at three schools after tests showed high levels of lead.

Exposure to lead can result in health problems, like stomach distress and brain damage, and it is particularly harmful for young children’s growing brains. Excessive exposure can cause young children to develop behavior and learning problems, which we definitely do not want for the next generation. After all, children are our future.

In response to the test results, a filter has been installed at every water source in the 64 affected schools, according to documents by the Department of General Services. DGS is currently in the process of installing filters on drinking water sources at all D.C. schools. Hopefully, unsafe water will soon be one less thing for the District’s children and parents to worry about.

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Sara Merken, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer. 

New York University officials recently rejected a proposal to divest from fossil fuels – a nearly identical decision to the one GW administrators made earlier this year.

Universities – and all companies and organizations – make the choice to invest in the fossil fuel industry. Recently, some organizations have decided to stop endowing fossil fuels because of the negative environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels, like receding the ozone layer.

GW and NYU, along with other peer institutions, should drive a national conversation on the benefits of divesting from fossil fuels, rather than continue to support the industry. These universities in particular have the ability to shape public opinion on the issue, given that they have large undergraduate populations that will go on to form national and international policies on fossil fuel emissions and global warming.

Not only have GW, NYU and countless other universities decided to invest in the fossil fuel industry in the first place, officials have struck down policy suggestions and petitions from student organizations that have laid out why fossil fuels are harmful. Officials should listen to students and take the time to understand why their investments are actively helping a harmful industry stay afloat.

Burning fossil fuels to provide energy for cars, houses, planes and electricity plants emits gasses including carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And while universities might see financial gains by investing in the fossil fuel industry, there are plenty of other sustainable energy companies that produce alternative fuels that officials could invest money in. It’s a smart financial move for universities to invest responsibly in industries that have positive environmental impacts.

Colleges are filled with mostly young people who will live with the effects of global warming more than older generations. University officials need to make sustainable decisions that teach students about the benefits of alternative fuels and show a commitment to bettering the future for their students. Because the global community is constantly focusing more on the future of the environment and the planet, universities need to teach students the importance of sustainability.

Investing in the fossil fuel industry contradicts GW’s pride in sustainability: The University holds sustainability challenges in residence halls, and University President Steven Knapp signed on to a solar power initiative.  Many University buildings have recently earned a LEED gold certification, and the Office of Sustainability promotes green projects in 10 aspects of campus life.

Now that NYU has followed in GW’s footsteps, more universities might feel comfortable with refusing to divest. At a time when GW and other universities could have been an influential part of a sustainable future, GW and NYU chose to back down. But Georgetown University, another peer institution, and 40 other universities have chosen to divest.

It’s time for more universities to divest from fossil fuels and to view GW and NYU’s decisions as mistakes, not as the standard.

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Laura Castro Lindarte, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and my eyes snapped open. By 7 a.m., I was on my way to the University of the Externado for my class on the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group, FARC.

I sat through class that day surrounded by my peers, professor and the head peace negotiator for the Colombian and FARC conflict. While I was intrigued by my class, I couldn’t help but think about how different my experience at a Colombian university was compared to my time at GW.

Of course, it’s pretty obvious that going to school in a new country will highlight the differences between the universities. It’s not that what I’m learning is much different. Rather, the structure of student life here in Colombia is most different.

For starters, the students here don’t live on campus. Unlike in the U.S. where many students leave their homes at 18 to live at their universities, here in Colombia, people live with their parents through college, and they usually don’t move out until they get married.

Also, students in Colombia enter college knowing what their majors will be. They are separated based on their majors from the very start and are assigned the classes they will take throughout college. In the U.S., students don’t always have a clear idea of what they want their majors to be from the start.

But the biggest difference to me is how students socialize. Here in Colombia, I made three friends after two days in classes, and I am acquaintances with everyone in my classes. But at GW, I have only been able to make two genuine friends after two semesters. It’s less common to make friends in class at GW. I relied on making friends in class, because I am a commuter student, but most GW students make friends outside of the classroom in their residence halls or through student organizations. In Colombia, it’s the norm to make friends in class, so students are much friendlier.

My experience taking classes is especially enjoyable because my classmates are open to one another and to me. They don’t treat me like I am just the girl from the U.S. They treat me as another person taking the class. Not to say that people in GW treat me as an outsider, but they are not quite as open.

Students and professors have much more personal relationships with one another here, compared to the student-professor relationships I’ve observed at GW. When I was talking to other students, they were able to list professors whom they felt they could talk to as friends. They respect their professors, just like we do at GW, but students trust their professors on a deeper level that I’ve never experienced.

Despite the differences, I realize that college students are college students, regardless of where they live. We all drink coffee like there is no tomorrow to try to avoid sleeping during 8 a.m. lectures. We talk about books and politics, and we show each other memes. We are all in class each day to try to learn. No matter where we live or where we go to school, we have strong goals and are working toward our diplomas.

I will keep these differences and similarities in mind when I head back to GW. But for now, I will continue to wake up at the crack of dawn to make my way to downtown Bogota to learn more about the peace negotiations occurring miles away, make friends and understand more about the country I love.

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