I work at the International Office of my university, where I use my experience of student to mentor prospective international students. I call them and chat with them about any concerns or interests they may have about the student experience, just so they are fully aware of what to expect. Sometimes (most of the time) I reply to their emails and queries, my providing assistance or redirecting them to appropriate offices. The nature of this job allows me to use all the skills I have been learning so far and to be in contact with people all over the world; it’s incredible.
Every time I step into the office, I step into the world; a world with no boundaries, a world of people eager to learn and make it right in order to learn. At the office there is no religion nor nationalities: we are all bound by our willingness to help each other.
When I step into the office I am embraced by the possibility to give relief to a fellow student.
But when I step into the office I am confronted with the problems of people far away from me, people I don’t know but of whom I share the pain; I am confronted with the call from the young man in Nepal, who knew to be on his merry way to Manchester, but his joy was shaken by the earth, and heavy tears from above had drown him in sorrow; I am confronted with the frustration of a peer who had managed to earn a PhD program offer after applying for the fifth consecutive year, but struggling to get funding to move forward.
I am confronted with the challenges of life.
Today at work at the International Office I wept. Today, instead of calling applicants to go through their application, I was replying to enquiries via email. I came across the message of a young man from Iraq who has applied for a PhD program and has managed to secure an unconditional offer. He was writing to let the University know that he won’t be coming to Manchester; not now, not next year, not the year after. He won’t be coming to Manchester because the war is happening, the war has taken his future, and the idea of future is shadowed by the war.
I stopped, unable to move and to form words to reply to this young man’s email.
I stopped, I wept.
I am so angry, so upset, so frustrated, so broken.
Education is a privilege, a privilege we take for granted, a privilege not everyone has, a privilege that transcends one’s excellence and brilliance. Education is a privilege we feel entitled to, a privilege we have but do not recognise.
While you are on this side of the privilege, don’t forget about the ones on the other side. It’s not your money, or your might, your strength, nor your brilliance: it is an unknown grace that is allowing you to be in this place, right now, at this very time. A grace that favours some and neglects others? I don’t know. All I know is this: never take for granted your privilege to have access to education, because while you are despising it, there’s someone that would move hills and mountains to have a portion of what you have.