Particularly around meal time at ISH, you could travel around the world by going around the room to talk to housemates.
Enter our dining room around 7 pm and pick any table to find yourself sitting with fellows from Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, India and Russia. Or maybe you pick another, with fellows from Canada, Sweden, Thailand or South Sudan.
As you sit down, you’re first of all with a group of friends. Most of us here at ISH quickly come to live as that (see my last blog post). ‘How was your day?’, or ‘Did you figure out that essay you were writing?’, and so we exchange how we’re doing and like at many other tables, we talk about the news, the latest Washington Buzz…
And then, amazing me every time, you find yourself, as I’ve found, in a lively debate, concerned reflection, a humorous clash on topics bigger than that:
What makes a good policy maker? How can we engage more people in democracy? Has ‘the West’ got it all wrong on this idea that our political model of democracy, justice and human rights is a good measure for all?
Just in the first few weeks, I’ve had challenging conversations with Jonathan, who has now become a cherished friend, on the outside-view of Western democracy, on what these ideas can mean to people in Africa- and how we may need to rethink our talk about them. Together, we’ve explored what democracy means to us and how Western ideas may have lost credibility around the world.
Similarly, my friend Melissa and I have enjoyed exploring what it is that makes the #blacklivesmatter debate in America so heated, why patriotism and discrimination are still at the center of clashes here and just how people could come together through empathy to appease the debate.
We found this issue so important that we kept coming back to it for days as we met around the house: coming home from school, doing household chores or sharing dinner. Our conversations went long into the night, but it meant so much that a lack of sleep was well worth it!
This Monday night, Patrick, who’s Hungarian, and me (from Germany) explored the differences in people’s views on the EU’s refugee challenge. How eye-opening it was to really appreciate where we disagree. Our chat will continue in search for common ground.
These conversations were not academic, but shared, compassionate explorations of what people around the world are concerned with.
When I enter the dining hall, I can be certain to leave with some inspiring thought from my ISH house-mates. When I leave, it’s with a better understanding of our world’s diversity. And this continues: in the great hall, on the stairway, in our TV room. At any point in time. this house is abuzz with conversations.
Now, what if you just want to joke around or watch a comedy? There’s plenty of that too! What if, at breakfast, you seek the quiet company of just a coffee or need some last-minute cramming? We can all relate- and will leave you alone as you wish.
The point is: If you are wondering about some issue in the world, history, journalism, the state of American democracy in this election, or say … the cultural significance of Star Wars ….
Whatever it is, rest assured: You’ll find partners in crime for meaningful, beautiful conversation here at ISH.