Cecilia Maiorana reflects her time at the University of Essex as an international student and tells us why we are high-flyers.
We live in weird and hostile times in which fear and hate wander around polluting our minds, soaking our lives in subtle and hidden ways, in which global crisis and unemployment are bringing millions to desperation.
In the UK, 13% of young people between 15 and 24 are unemployed. Those figures are even worse if we look at other countries, like Turkey (19.5%), France (24.6%), Italy (37.8%), Greece (47.4%) and South Africa (53.3%). Everyone seems to believe that opportunities no longer exist, not for young people, not in certain countries, not if you don’t know ‘the right people’. Disillusion and lack of hope are damaging the relationships with others even more. People don’t trust, don’t open up, don’t want to help, don’t want to share. Racism, homophobia and xenophobia overflow, several European countries (including Balkan and Scandinavian states) have reintroduced border controls and barriers to try limiting the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Europe at an unprecedented rate. Meanwhile, wars keep raging in Africa, South America, Asia and Middle East resulting in a total of 67 countries in the world that are in conflict. It seems like a terrible time to have hope and to try to make a positive impact or to dream for a better future.
“But coming to Essex, I see another reality.”
Coming here, I see thousands of students, colourful and different souls that are fighting for their future, a multifaceted crowd floating around in the squares, laughing, studying, arguing and questioning. What is the University of Essex, if not a better version of the outside world, a lively and rich environment full of hope and dreams, energy and focus, friendship and determination. Each student is here for a reason, for a scope, for a future that they want to pursuit and achieve and each student is here, with their personal history, with their own language and cultural background, with the fears of trying to defeat and the determination to improve themselves. There are societies that work hard every day to ensure that every student receives equal rights and opportunities, independently from his nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion and skin colour. In the accommodations, Chinese students teach African ones how to cook noodles. In the sports club, everyone has a chance to try himself at a sport, be it Japanese Judo or American Cheerleading, to learn it and to compete in an open and friendly environment. Societies gather their members to discuss and exchange thoughts about the most diverse topics, and departments organise get-togethers in which students and professors can talk together like old friends.
So, here we are, students that work hard for our dreams, unwilling to let anyone steal them from us. Here we are, youth and energy, hope and determination, friendship and inclusion, against a world that seems to go further and further into hate, discrimination, disillusion and injustice. But here we are and we own the future and we are the future. And it’s on us to change the world to the better. It’s on us to show what we’ve got, and to show that we’re climbing towards our dreams and even when those will be achieved we won’t stop dreaming for more.
When I finished my Erasmus studies and it was time for the farewell, this dear friend of mine told me something really beautiful. He told me that our generation, the ‘millennials’, so much criticised and despised, is a very special one: we are the ones who dare, who challenge everything, who get out of our comfort zone to go and meet new people, new places, to see everything that there is to be seen. We are the tolerant ones, the travellers, the wanderers, the wild souls that will end the cycle of hate that has been taking over the world. And I think good ol’ Rodrigo is right.
““Home of the thinkers, doers and high-flyers. Learn how, challenge why. The world in one place.”
So please, don’t let the world bring you down. Don’t let all the bad events and ideas that are crawling around penetrate your mind and your soul. Don’t forget the principles and spirit that we see on our campus. And don’t forget that the future and the world are ours to share.