Focus on democratic news
At the beginning of this month, I had the opportunity to participate in an Erasmus + project organized in France. The topic of this project was “Focus on democracy”, not a topic that I was very knowledgeable about but interested enough to push myself out of my comfort zone. “Why?“ some of you might ask? Well, seeing how corruption keeps evolving in the country where I am from made me decide last year to be more informed about politics in general and try to be more involved when I can.
The best part of an Erasmus + is that it brings different important topics for discussions among individuals coming from different backgrounds, and the informal context is established which makes the learning experience an enjoyable one.
In the first days, we discussed what democracy stands for, if it is reaching its purpose, and how we feel about it through our previous experiences. As the delegations joining this project were from different countries, it was of course expected that our visions might differ.
What I really found interesting was an exercise that required us to looks at the plus and the cons of how democracy is applied in every country. Hearing freedom of speech listed a pro while listening to the presentations of others, I felt privileged, as my team did not think of that for even one second while preparing our speech, that’s how used we are to a different normal and how easily we take that for granted. To be honest, it is indeed one of the aspects that I appreciated here, in the Netherlands: the fact that not only you have the right to an opinion, but your feedback matters, and in many cases, you’re provided with everything you need if you want to take responsibility for making a certain change.
When putting together the most important cons and pros, one aspect that stood out to many of us was the lack of countries to consider minorities/internationals, their struggles, and their needs. Moving forward with discussing democratic problems, we identified the spread of fake news, inaccurate data used in elections, and lack of political education in schools as some of the most concerning issues. Different solutions were considered from something as broad as changing education systems to more approachable ones such as creating online platforms to help citizens verify the accuracy of resources and be more informed.
One of the most challenging activities was a MUN simulation where we had to debate and negotiate over resolutions to ensure sustainability while addressing Covid-19. Although in my university simulations like these happen, I never considered joining one and only through this project I realized its importance. It’s always easy to say that our representatives are not doing enough for the country until you actually get to experience it yourself. Debating, negotiating, and reaching a common ground is for sure not an easy task.
But the most important aspect of this experience is exposure. I find it crucial when developing a sense of understanding that everyone has a different “normal”, a sense of acceptance and an open mind. From the small things such as how to eat cheese, with or without bread, to important aspects regarding rights and equal opportunities. Interacting with people that have different nationalities and educational backgrounds is always fun, and exposure to cultural differences makes every person develop their own empathy level. And despite all the differences, there are so many similarities.
The amazing part is, the end of such a project only marks the beginning of friendships among us, with a huge desire to travel, to explore, and to discover even. Is that curiosity that makes us better in our daily life, as you get home and you talk about your experience and you make your friends willing to have this experience too, And bit by bit, we all become involved. We all become curious. And with the right education, we can make a change.
Stay curious and willing to learn.