“Let me just enjoy the IASA show first and then I’ll worry about it.”
These are the actual words that left my mouth during the Indian American Student Association’s annual dance performance, Azaya, last Friday, in response to a friend telling me about the several tragedies that occurred that night. It very succinctly, yet colorfully, illustrates my relationship with world news while on campus here at the University.
Two years ago, when I was a senior in high school, I thought college would be “Campus” by Vampire Weekend. I pictured everyone as those cliché opinionated college students, crossing the Diag in autumn while wearing horn-rimmed glasses and heatedly discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict with classmates.
Instead, it’s been “Sweatpants” by Childish Gambino. Not only do I wear the same H&M joggers every day (not gonna lie, they’re dope and versatile), but I have also almost completely replaced any attention I could possibly pay to world events with other things. I used to call myself a global citizen not only due to my international experiences, but also due to my interest in and empathy for world issues. Now, instead of catching up on news first thing in the morning or before I go to bed, I rewatch Royal Family hip-hop dance videos. Every. Single. Day.
It’s not that I don’t love the student organizations I’m involved in. I’m just concerned about the fact that it becomes so easy to get distracted and isolated from the rest of the world here. The cliché metaphor made about the University, and college campuses in general, is that the students live in a bubble. While this comparison has value, I think it’s not so much that we’re all isolated from the world, but rather that it’s insanely easy to just not pay any attention to life outside of our campus. Obviously, so many college students are very politically involved and aware of world events, but it’s just SO EASY to live for months at a time with blinders on, blocking everything except classes and student orgs. I’m so privileged that I have the option of living like this.
The scariest part, at least for me, is that I have to ask myself how willful it is. Like with the IASA show, was my gut reaction a problematic one? Am I a horrible person for wanting to not yet know about the tragedies occurring so that I could wholeheartedly cheer on my friends on stage? Sure, I did my research and educated myself on the events afterwards, but that initial rejection to even face the outside world while enjoying myself in (bubble-shaped) Hill Auditorium has to warrant some self-reflection.
I spent my free time during the summer between high school and college reading memoirs and listening to National Public Radio. This completely stopped when I started at the University, without me even realizing it. After my freshman year, I returned to this leisure routine again in the summer, promising myself that in my second year I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. But I did.
As much as I love reading memoirs and listening to NPR, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to do it here, and I think that’s somewhat a reflection of just how much of a bubble the University can be. Granted, it was much easier to listen to NPR when I was commuting to and from Detroit for my summer internship, but there are other ways to still conveniently engage with the news while on campus.
I just hope that I manage to find those ways of reconnecting with the world again soon. But first, I have to work on this EECS project. Oh, and I have to choreograph for Izzat, too. Oh man.
Liam Wiesenberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.