Three months ago, I fortunately attended a conference in Brussels about Interculturalists and Migration. The conference was organized thanks to initiatives of a group of Intercultural experts or professionals, who felt like they needed to be involved much more the current migration crisis. The conference was meant empower each individual participating to launch helpful actions.
The following was the original “advertisement”:
- “With the current dramatic increase in migration into and within Europe there has been much discussion around National SIETARs in Europe about the issues facing all the countries of Europe, with some more affected than others. The causes of the migration are many but as Interculturalists there is a strong feeling that not only have we much to contribute to making this migration a benefit for all but that we actually have a responsibility to be involved. Many SIETARians are already heavily involved.
- The topic of migration, whatever the cause, is a multifaceted topic with issues ranging from integration, assimilation, racism, economic effects and much more. Many SIETAR members are already involved in work relating to migration, particularly in the current dramatic increase, and many more members have been involved in discussion as to what SIETAR and its members should be doing.
- Following the SIETAR Europa Board meeting in Brussels in February, we agreed that it would be useful for interested people to meet over a week-end to discuss matters of relevance to Interculturalists relating to migration and to come up with actions and initiatives including the possibility of a more comprehensive longer event later in 2016.”
I was not an active member of SIETAR Europa. In fact, I had got involved only recently. But at the beginning of this year, I grabbed my chance to join this amazing project initiated by one of my teachers in JAMK University, Finland. Our project's goal is building up empathy between Finnish citizens and migrants who have arrived in Finland, by letting them play a game together. The “game” here is actually diversophy®—The Game of Cultural Competence. You can see our progress if you click Migration & Acculturation on our website.
I am not going to tell you more about this new product we are building, as there has been already a blog post and a testimonial published on the diversophy® website. I want to talk about what I learned at the conference instead.
Unlike most of interculturalists there, I arrived in Brussels that weekend with hoping to collect stories. I like story telling. I adore story tellers. And I have only got more stories to tell since I moved abroad. I can imagine how many more amazing stories are to be told by people who are in the Intercultural field. This is not to say that I was not looking for concrete and solid action plans; but that was simply just not my main hope.
I indeed collected many more inspiring stories. I heard about people's family backgrounds, about how they ended up choosing this path for their careers and their lives. I recalled myself taking notes because whilst listening, many question marks popped up in my head.
- Why is it interesting to search back to your rootedness, explore your family tree? Is it because you need them to define your identity?
- All of the qualifications & titles you have gained, what do they mean at the end of your life?
- Why have we become more negative about social media and technology when the purpose of having them in the first place was to assist us?
- How might it feel for one to change your career path, to start all over again, to chase a new (or true) passion one has found?
My strategy was seeking for answers through collecting stories. I got answers, not to all, but a few of the answers were already quite impressive. There were so many great answers and pieces of advice that I found myself in silence, as I had nothing smart to respond. I had to think. They got me thinking hard. I guess that was the whole point.
I came to realize the importance of awareness and education. Each of the participants was there due to her or his awareness of how understanding differences between cultures is important. Some of people out there might have already decided whether they are supporting globalization, of welcoming more different cultures to their countries. But I think people often jump to their conclusions. Have they understood the differences well before deciding it is not worth their time?
Despite all the disturbing global news I had been hearing until that weekend, this conference gave me this one best reassurance: I knew there were still many people trying to make changes and to do good deeds. Because it is easy to feel unmotivated sometimes when all I hear each day are the problems, “what’s wrong” with the world. I have never been ready to step into the real world after graduating or some might say, entering “adulthood”; but thanks to global news on certain days, I don't see the rush. That might sound selfish now, although I think it is fair to say we all have those moments, when the good things being done seem only "drops in the sea".
However, knowing there are still people making the effort, I learned that there could be still a long way to go and now was definitely not the time to crawl back into my “bubble". So, there it is, that was the best thing I learned from this event.
As always, diversophy® team welcomes your thoughts and comments below this post. I personally welcome any answers to those questions I wrote above. I don't mind if you tell me you don't like this post, nobody is perfect and I am surely not either.