It’s that time of year again when I’m spending my weekends in the company of post-graduate business students, most of who are from overseas. I love these weekends, though the days are long (up at 6.00 to cycle and 15 hours later I’m still processing the pics I took today in readiness for sharing with the students tomorrow.
One of the things that we’ve discussed today has been about where personal values originate. In most cases this is with our parents, but if you ignore that source where would you say your values were most influenced? For my part in the discourse I mentioned the impact that travel has had upon me, not just in my love of the history and culture of many of my European neighbours, but also in the contrasting riches I encountered in Nepal and Tanzania.
Weekends like these though are great for meeting people from other cultures without clocking up the air miles!
I’m not so crass as to keep a tally chart of nations whose people I’ve met, but I was lucky enough to meet two outstanding students today who each represented countries that were new to me.
Yusif is Bahraini, originating from the small island country of the Persian Gulf, a country that received a lot of attention from the world’s media during the uprisings that became known as the Arab Spring. Protests were quashed resulting in calls for planned Grand Prix races to be cancelled. This happened in 2011, but the race was reinstated the following year. As far as the outside world is concerned the protests are unresolved, yet Yusif felt that after a short-lived flash point the conflict had dwindled to relative insignificance. The world’s media had more important issues in Syria to focus upon and Bahrain has resumed its relative anonymity.
All of the students in my group introduce themselves with a very brief presentation and Yusif was so expressive I caught a series of candids that I really liked so he gave me permission to share them here.
In contrast to the Bahraini situation, the human rights restrictions experienced by the second student featured here have been well documented, thanks to the actions of a small but remarkable woman. Kay is from Burma, now known as Myanmar, where Aung San Suu Kyi has fought the military junta to bring democracy to the nation for many years. Her political party won 80% of the seats in a democratic election over 20 years ago, but the military refused to give up their power. Kept under house arrest for most of the period since then, she has recently begun to garner political power once more.
I asked Kay if she would have been allowed to study abroad during the height of the Junta’s power, and learnt that in contrast she had no choice but to do so as the universities had been closed by the military, so her parents sent her overseas to be able to continue her education. In the spirit of paying it forward while studying here, she also undertakes voluntary work to support those seeking political asylum.