In the pursuit of global citizenship

People can only live fully by helping others to live. When you give life to friends you truly live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions.” — Daisaku Ikeda

I chuckled, as I patted Rong Wu, my Chinese friend and classmate, on his back and started walking down the aisle towards my classroom. Rong cracks me up with his effusive burst of laughter and warm energy. As I strolled on, I walked past my energetic Peruvian friend, Maybelline Mendoza, who winked at me. I chuckled again and continued strolling down the aisle. Looking ahead, I saw the giant German, Tanja Wilhemi, bearing down on me with a fiendish scowl on her inscrutable face. What have I done wrong again? I thought to myself. She waltzed past, smiled and winked at me. I sighed with relief. I suspect I am doomed (or blessed) with winks today. As I walked into my classroom, I decided I must get some payback. Looking around the class, I caught Jon Mohundro’s eye and quickly winked at him. I felt good doing it. Maybelline and Tanja must have felt good too!

Wait a minute! I am supposed to be in America. Yet, in the space of a few minutes, I have had to interact with friends from four continents. This is only one of the beauties of schooling at an international business school as Mason; where every day, I am in constant touch with all the cultures of the world. My lessons are daily and juicy blend of academics, cultures and socials.

I am from the green plains of Nigeria. Before Mason, I met the world through the bifocal lens of Hollywood and western literature. These platforms helped shape my perception of the world. I wrongly thought the Chinese were very antisocial and boring (Thank you Hollywood!); Indians overtly focused on love and romance (Thank you Bollywood!); Germans, “BEERishly” intent on dominance (Thank you Die Mannschaft!) and Americans all about parties and fun. Like many other citizens of the world, I held untested, yet strong biases about other cultures and people.

In just a short space of two months, Mason has helped me eliminate my biases. What the Mason experience have taught me and still teaches, is the wealth of our human diversity. I know now of the sheer determination of the Latinos and the conscientiousness of the Germans. I know now of the happy, witty spirit of the Chinese and the communal friendship of the Indians. I know now of the jolliness of the Iranians and the gracious generosity of the Americans. Every day, as I live and study with my wonderful classmates, my understanding and appreciation of other cultures expand.

As I pulled my chair to sit down, I could not but help gaze around my classroom and savor the din of voices and the smiles on faces-the feel of camaraderie was palpable. I could see Maryam Mortazavi (an Iranian) animatedly chatting away with Nick Skantz (an American). But this is how Mason is — where daily we nudge and forge friendship across political divides.

I smiled and sighed contentedly, whispering to myself that despite all our cultural, national and historical differences, we are all truly bounded together by the common thread of our shared humanity. We are one.

Thank you, Mason! I know that come 2014 when I will be walking out of your great walls, I will leave with lifelong friends from all corners of the world. I will leave knowing that I am truly a global citizen.

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Allison Abraka

Allison Abraka is a 1st year MBA candidate at The Mason School of Business, College of William & Mary and a certified professional in Human Resources. He is currently a member of the Mason Honor Council. Prior to coming to W&M, he was a human resources officer for West Africa’s most profitable bank, Guaranty Trust Bank PLC, where he introduced strategies that improved employee fit, employee retention and performance appraisal turn-around-time. He was also part of the team that formulated and implemented strategies that helped define the mobile money ecosystem in Nigeria. He is the founder and president of The Shelf Enterprise, a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to nudging Nigerian youths to develop a reading culture. Ultimately, he aims to stir a reading revolution in Nigeria that will inadvertently provide a platform for informed leaders that will shape Nigeria’s future to be born. He is an avid reader and chess player and takes great pleasure in mentoring.

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