There is nothing in this world comparable to the sensation of being part of something bigger than yourself: the feeling of being part of a family, a couple, a group of friends, a university, a city, a nation, a History. This cultural notion of the self, a tremendously comforting feeling, sometimes become responsibility and concern toward any little threat that put in danger that connection with a bigger entity. Maybe that is the reason I feel a small fear. I am afraid that the constant contact with a foreign culture weaken the link I have with my own culture. I am also afraid of failing in my interactions with people who have no experienced the routine of seeing the same Cuban cartoons immediately after the same an American cartoons every single day, in the afternoons, as the majority of my friend and I did.
I am afraid that I have to let go some part of my localism in order to be universal. Universalism becomes useful when you are living in another continent, in a wonderfully multicultural landscape.
My brain’s rational areas respond quickly and they transmit confidence to me. They talk me about flexibility, open mindedness, learning processes, and social skills. They are all the time with me in my inner searches. They remember me how cultural and national identities are a kind of raw material which is alive and flammable. Those raw materials can be used for two enormously different purposes. On one hand, they are the perfect ingredient to make the borders stronger and insurmountable, to implement distrust, to justify the violation of privacy, to feed fanaticisms. On the other hand, they contribute to dismantling hegemonies, to open spaces for personal expression, to find beauty around, to enhance the imagination and the sensibility.
Now I am focused in understand the complexity of that raw material running through my veins. I am clinging to those collective identities mixed with my personal identity. I have never thought about identities in this sense. I do so now, when everything could lead me to the break with my cultural history. Fortunately, I have enjoyed and continue enjoying it as much as I enjoy the profound learning that my time in England has meant to me.
In the United Kingdom, the multicultural environment and the respect for diversity within universities are showed as one of the main strengths of higher education. This civilized atmosphere is ideal to share alternative points of view and to argue about the «truths» that everyone has learned. Besides, a wide part of society consider highly important the cultural and economic contributions from international students to the United Kingdom. An article published by The Guardian last July pointed out how «international students studying in London bring in far more money than they use in public services» (but, this is another topic).
The course I chose is focused in provide to the students with the skills and knowledge that they will need to survive in a highly competitive job market. «It aspires to produce consummate industry professionals able to work in global environments».
What is a global environment? I could be wrong, but the word «global» always transports me to a tiny area of the world where our stories are interpreted and (re)generated. Although I have accessed (as I have never done before) to a wide variety of information sources from the entire world, it is expected that the core bibliography and many topics to analyse are centred in British media landscape, its values, its history, its development.
That approach is tremendously attractive to me. However, if I want to take a tangible advantage of it, I must filter all the knowledge through my country’s values, history, development and reality. Only a full could imagine that I will be able to apply everything I have learned here in the other island, mine. That kind of aspirations are utopic, disoriented and burlesque. Consequentely, I force myself to learn (and learning in English is not a hobby) everything my professors put in my hands and, at the same time, I try to metabolize all the information using my Caribbean enzymes.
Anyway, as an international student I am supposed to adopt the values of this job market; what means to adopt the values of this society and this culture (majestic, by the way) in an innovative manner. Whereas my contributions are well valued, now the experience gained in Cuba are my pre-history and what really matters is my future: I have to transform myself in a professional graduated from a British university. That target demands new ways of being, thinking, working, writing… existing.
In such short period of time, I have met people born in diverse countries who have been living in the United Kingdom for so long. They have become proudly British citizens here. They have achieved something worthy of applause: to be, to think, to work, to write, to exists like a British human being. This kind of achievement demands discipline, vocation, patience, dedication, and more. The social and emotional retributions (without talking about economic and political ones) surely worth the energy invested.
I sincerely admire those who made it but I have to confess: I am not prepare to change that radically. Perhaps, I am not malleable enough. What can I do? I would feel I am playing at a disadvantage and I defend fair play. I even feel certain level of sadness when someone says that she or he does not think in their mother tongue often. Maybe I am a vain provincial but I adore to use Spanish for everything: to express pain, to feel happiness, to dance, to sing and to think at postgraduate level. It is true that my thoughts in English are more and more common every day and it comforts somehow. Now I can work with two systems of sounds and letters; but I cannot feel in English and I do not know if I will be able to do so once. I feel in Spanish; in fact, I feel in Cuban slang.
Although my cultural background is the Western way of life (and I am an independent individual, a self-contained and autonomous entity) I miss and I deeply need the constant interchange with people who see and feel the world as I do. My childhood socialisation leaved a mark in my sense of humour, in the way I start a conversation, in the idea of what is a limit and which limits I should not cross. Nevertheless, it is not a simply dichotomy: my cultural background is not the same of my British classmate; it is not completely different though. I am not living between two separately worlds, I am going from one to another and, once in a while, I take a break in the common area.
Some of my incapacities are a result of the society where I was raised, and my capacities too. I am grateful of the good Cuban music, Cuban cinema, Cuban literature, Cuban teachers, Cuban friends, and Cuban cities. I feel myself connected to almost 12 million people and almost 525 of registered Cuban History. I do not know if all Cubans, all international students, or all journalists feel the same way. I do not know if my concerns are too small. I do not know if there is a way to conciliate this local sense of self and the necessity of being universal. I do not know if the rigors of job market do not left room for questions about identity. How to absorb all the advantages of studying in a foreign university and, at the same time, to keep the empathy toward the path which has lead us until here? I have no idea and it is tormenting to be asking these questions all the time.