I moved to Saudi Arabia when I was 8-years-old. I became a student in a school unlike any I had been in; I was one of five Americans in my grade, and the rest were from all over the world. My best friends were from Lebanon, France, Sweden, and India. Every time something happened in the world, it wasn’t just a current event or something you read in the news- it was something that affected one of my close friends’ relatives or friends in their home country. Things happening in different countries were suddenly much more personal and real than they ever had been before.
When 9/11 happened, I was in 7th grade in Saudi Arabia. I walked into school the next day, noticeably upset, and my friend Faraz from Bangladesh approached me and said, “You think this is bad? In my country, this sort of thing happens every day, and no one notices.” Though obviously not the most sympathetic response, the comment shocked me into thinking about the world in a much different way. The way I felt about 9/11, and the dismay I felt when the stability of my country was threatened, was something that affected people all over the world, all the time.
I returned to the United States the next year, only to realize that in a lot of ways, Faraz was totally correct. People in my high school were much less aware and much more apathetic about things happening around the world than they had been in my school in Saudi Arabia. Just as I was beginning to lose hope on ever finding American students who cared about the rest of the world, a friend of mine told me about the genocide of Darfur and about the thousands of amazing students around the country who were actively involved in trying to end that genocide. I found a community of people who cared very deeply about problems that affected people thousands of miles away from where they were, and who were willing to spend their time working towards goals that they would never personally see happen. Five years later, I’m proud to say I’m still a member of that community.