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By Hiba Ahmed, Center for Public and Global Affairs Intern
August 3, 2015
After answering many questions about international theory, I asked myself: why are so many people directing questions about international affairs and theory to me? A few seconds of pondering, I came to an obvious realization: Hiba Ahmed, you hold a degree in International Relations. Whereas I completely forgot the fact that I am proficient (according to an academic institution), in a social science, my peers held my academic degree and background legitimate.
Many young, undergraduate students begin their academic endeavors focused on a set goal and potential career path. For those undecided, students still have the goal of graduating from an accredited institution with the intentions of employment. Never did I understand how much my undergraduate career altered my general state of mind. Yes, I hold an undergraduate degree. Yes this diploma, the most expensive piece of paper I own, is of priceless value to me. However, as common cliches loudly proclaim, the undergraduate experience is more than an academic degree.
In high school I was your stereotypical debater: I went to local and state tournaments, prepared arguments for each side of the topic, configured observations, definitions, and abstracts, and memorized a significant amount of data. What made the best debater the best? The ability to effectively rebuttal each and every argument presented in whatever means necessary. As beneficial as Debate Teams across the country are for educational purposes, there are distinct differences between dialogue and debate.
As societal norms transform, controversial conversations are necessary for understanding and tolerance. Questions serve curious thinkers the means of beginning positive, thoughtful dialogue rather than proving doubt. Debate is taught in high school. Dialogue is learned through real experiences. Yes my academic degree is momentous; however, the largest lesson learned from my undergraduate experience includes reshaping the ways in which I interact with others.
Not all conversations with conflicting viewpoints leads to debate. Questions do not necessarily have to cast doubt. One’s disagreement is not a personal attack on the opinions of one’s own. In light of recent conversations about race and gender relations, it is of the greatest importance to understanding the perspective of another. Always validate the experiences, emotions, and thoughts of others – for positive dialogue that continues to move society forward will only advance through sincerity and genuineness. Passion for progress ignites when individuals recognize that portions of their very own community are in pain either physically or emotionally. Perfecting meaningful conversation overshadows academia. An undergraduate career encompasses more than scholarly reading and work, and these become the most practical, productive, and life-long societal lessons.