One of the most incredible things I have learned here in Norway is how much I have in common with others who speak different languages, who live in different countries, who practice different religions, and who live amongst entirely different cultures from my own. Last night while playing sand volleyball with other International Summer School students from every continent (excluding Antarctica) I found myself thinking about exactly that: commonality. As I stood there in the middle of the sand volleyball court, I missed a pass sent directly toward me because I was too busy wondering why our world could be so divided despite the fact that all these people surrounding me, though very different from me, breathe the same air as me, have ten fingers and toes—as far as I could tell—and love their friends and family with the same ferocious love with which I love my own.
Let me explain.
Aside from the intermittent curses in Urdu or strategy shared between the students from Mexico in Spanish, we all connected through English. And even beyond the formal language that we shared, we all experienced connections that resulted not from our race, nationality, language, or religion, but instead from our humanness. For instance, the student who stood next to me from Russia laughed with the same obnoxious, high pitched laugh as me. The men from Ukraine chuckled just like the students from Pakistan giggled (rather loudly) to themselves. I found myself responding instinctively to the smiles of the student from Turkey with even bigger smiles. And when the shortest girl on the team, a student from southern Mexican landed us a point with a beautiful hit, there was no concern for nationality or race before we squealed and high-fived each other in celebration. Finally, when the star volleyball player, a 6’5” middle hitter from Pakistan smashed the ball into the face of a young girl from Russia—accidentally, of course— no one considered the language she spoke, the stereotypes connected to her nationality, or the color of her skin before groaning sympathetically and rushing toward her to ensure she was ok.
Of course, using the International Summer School as an example of how the world ought to be isn’t entirely realistic, but I happen to believe that this kind of cooperation and unconditional kindness regardless of race, sexuality, gender, nationality, language, religion or any other social construct we choose to divide each other with is possible beyond the confines of Blindern Dormitory. This school is an example of how humans, if we simply connect ourselves with our humanness rather than label and divide ourselves, are capable of living, working, studying, playing, and living with and for each other in a way that is beneficial for all.