Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Impact of an Academic Immersion

USF AGI 2019 Cohort receiving instructions from Dr. Marco Tavanti in Rome, Italy 

An American’s Awakening: The Impact of Immersion

Zaid Adrian Hakim, MPA Candidate

As of late, the current state of global affairs, including our collective foreseeable future, can be succinctly characterized by most as unpredictable and disturbing. When we ask ourselves the age-old question of “What kind of world will we be passing to our children?” those that embrace a global perspective may be fearful that the problems that jeopardize our humanity are potentially insurmountable. As the wealth of the world continues to be increasingly centralized among the financial elite and the negative effects of climate change become more burdensome for communities across the socio-economic spectrum, one reality that is particularly disheartening regarding global stability is the conservative political shift that many countries around the world are experiencing. Conservatism, in nature, is not distinctively opposed to social justice or social evolution, however in its most common application today, conservatism is leading societies to be increasingly nationalistic, economically isolated, traditionally extremist, and inherently opposed to immigration and refugee acceptance. Scarcity of natural resources, lack of financial abundance, and - most of all - oppressive violence all contribute towards the pressures vulnerable populations worldwide are forced to endure.

To me, fellow human beings fleeing their homes and fighting to survive transcends the man-made barriers that are national borders. After all, grounded in a framework that acknowledges human rights and human dignity, man-made systems are directly or indirectly responsible for all the world’s atrocities. The awakening occurs when average people, who have careers, families, and obligations that occupy the greater half of their time and energy, have an opportunity to take a closer look at the world’s deficiencies, and more importantly – the world’s injustices. Without the 2019 Academic Global Immersion (AGI) program through the University of San Francisco, I would still be living in the bubble of American exceptionalism, immune from global problems and focused exclusively on domestic issues and personal interests. When I say “Awakening” I don’t mean a variation of enlightenment – as my definition of enlightenment involves serene peace and internal contentment. When I say “Awakening” I mean to say that my eyes have now been opened to see beyond everything that I’ve ever seen, and my mind and worldview has been broadened beyond everything that I thought I knew. As I’ve now returned home, to my suburban neighborhood and demanding public sector career, through it all – I now feel a strong sense of uneasiness.

I feel inspired, capable, motivated, and I've developed a mindset that is intolerant of human suffering and impatient with injustice. As the next generation of educated and hard-working Americans, it is our duty to each other and to the world to reject racism, embrace human kindness, to demonstrate empathy, and to actively engage with inadequate systems so we can fix them. It’s what we’ve been born to do – To leave the world better than we found it. We need to change the narrative and seek truth through evidence-based frameworks, objective data, and personal storytelling.

We need to lead by example and be the change we want to see.

Photo Source: Toby Hughes. 10/05/15 
USF AGI 2019 Cohort & Save the Children leadership in Rome, Italy