Thursday, 6 February 2014

Face Your Fear - A Reflection

Face Your Fear 
Hi Everyone. I joined UBC for a graduate program in architecture in September 2012. I am from India. I wish to share some of my reflections on intercultural dialog at the UBC campus. 
UBC boasts of a presence of international students from around 140 countries. On the face of it, this looks as an ideal environment for getting to know different ‘cultures’ of the world or simply put – different attitudes, perceptions and realities as felt real by international students.
One should really ask if this kind of healthy exchange is happening and what really constitutes a cross-cultural dialog? If such an exchange is felt necessary for all-round development of the individual, then one should think of ways in which this can be encouraged on a daily basis – to the point of being very natural and intrinsic. 
Culture is sometimes an overly glossed term. At times it is made to advertise as a display object. In fact, I argue, sometimes the analytical discussion leads to an erosion of the meaning of what does culture really mean to students?
To me, embracing ‘other’ cultures means to understand fully, the alternative reality (thoughts, actions, assumptions, biases) embedded in them. ‘Life’ for ‘others’ is not as per standard ‘fit for all’ For some people life might be a celebration, for others, life is a burden, yet for others it is really frustrating. Are you serious enough to know the causes for such variation? There is a diversity and this can cause a lot of pain, fear and challenge to anyone who is serious enough to understand and embrace the difference. Understanding and acknowledging an unknown individual (who has a completely different outlook from yours) psychologically, emotionally, intellectually is not funny – in fact it is one of the hardest things to take on. It can expose your own shallowness of life. It can expose your own fears and biases. Please do not run away from this exposure and this is what I also tell myself every time I sense some insecurity boiling within myself. Such an exposure will offer you a chance to understand the common language of humanity and the concerns that we all share. To me, being a global citizen, means to drop out politically differentiating labels of ethnicity, religion and cultural definitions. However, to transcend such differentiation will require an individual to realize that the cultural difference is the making of our own minds (a social construct) and can only be broken by having a continuous interactions with all students, staff and faculties in UBC.
The fundamental challenge that I see here is to generate opportunities for creation of public spaces of interactions and creating a common time where each and every individual, irrespective of his/ her discipline of study and routine, come and start to talk just about anything under the sun. There must be a common space and time marked out for such interactions. This is lacking at present in UBC. With the kind of flexibility and infinite choices that are available for the individual to plan his/ her routine, are we unknowingly creating individual ghettos and forming barriers towards effective communication? As I understand, we are here in UBC to ‘relate’ to others and not be contained in our cocoons.
With that perspective, the effort taken by Intercultural Alliance is inspiring. Good to see poems, drawings, thoughts, music belonging to different cultures. That forces me to think about who I am and what connection do I have with people over here? Great job people! 
From my end, this is an open invitation to anyone who would be interested to know anything about the architecture and the culture of India. I already have a presentation on history of Indian architecture ready to be shared across. You may usually find me on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays in Ponderosa B, 2024 West Mall. 
All the best! 
Submission by Niranjan Garde, India
Candidate – Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture, UBC

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