“O brave new world, that has such people in it!”

July 28, 2012

The Olympics started less than 24 hours ago and I’ve not left my TV unattended since then. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, unintentionally, and couldn’t go back to sleep because the cycling road race was on and suddenly, nothing seemed more important than these men on bikes. Any other time of year, I don’t follow cycling. I don’t follow archery, but I watched the whole men’s teams’ competition. I don’t follow volleyball, but I’m currently on the edge of my seat to see if the women’s USA group can beat the South Korean team. Something about the Olympics gets me invested in all of these obscure competitions.

I’ve always loved watching sports and the Olympics have never been an exception. I remember watching the opening ceremonies in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, all from the comfort of my living room. But last night, as Mary Poppins was battling off Voldemort, I wasn’t thinking about how whimsical and weird the whole thing was. Rather, I was reading an article about how certain Canadian television channels had cut out the whole segment dedicated to Britain’s National Healthcare System. And then later, I found a 5-minute-long tribute to London’s 7/7 terrorist attack victims that NBC had cut out and replaced with a Michael Phelps interview. I’ve never been much into politics because I loathe controversy, but I was moved to see Saudi Arabia’s first female competitors walking proudly along the track. I was excited to know that Palestine had actually qualified for an event and earned their inclusion. I was inspired to see countries that were sending two or three athletes grinning with pride. 

So how does this relate in any way to college? To you?

I don’t recall caring so much about the parade of nations in 2004 or 2008. I didn’t take interest in the stories of smaller countries and lesser athletes. I just wanted to root for USA and maybe an Australian or two. But this go around, I feel more aware and I can’t help but think that college has had something to do with that. I care more about the rest of the world. It seems silly to reduce the feeling to something so small, but it’s the truth. I’ve met people from all around the world here at Coastal. I’ve learned about the countries and cities and villages that they call home and I’ve found myself genuinely caring. I’ve been told about injustices and discriminations until I started to sympathize and want to take action.

You see, you can go to your classes every day and earn an A on every test. You can make the Dean’s and the President’s list every semester. As a self-attesting nerd, I’ve operated by these rules for the past three years. But even so, the more important things I’ve learned didn’t come from a book or a study guide. The greatest wealth of knowledge resides in the people around you. Make sure you go out and find them and I guarantee, it’ll be time well spent. You’ll see your whole world open up.

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