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Matt Jagdeo believes in global mindedness

Upper Canada College initiated a “This I Believe” essay for stewards and other boys in the leaving class a number of years ago. The students are then asked to share them in assembly.

The essays are narrowly focused on one principle or concept, and are expressed in the form of an affirming belief that’s often described through personal anecdotes or experiences. Matt Jagdeo recently delivered one of these speeches that focused on global mindedness.

Here it is:

“This past March break I had the privilege of traveling to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for what was dubbed a candidate weekend for admission finalists to New York University in Abu Dhabi.

“Now what in the world was I doing going there? I often had this thought on my near day-long journey, composed of two seven-hour flights and a layover in Amsterdam. When I arrived, got transported from the airport to the campus, and settled into my accommodations for the next two days, I was amazed. Not by the glamorous skyscrapers piercing the Abu Dhabi sky, the luxurious cars policing the highways or even the ultra-modern campus. I was instead quickly in awe of my fellow candidates.

“In a group of about 160 students, over 70 countries were represented from literally every corner of the globe. From the moment I began talking to people, I realized there was so much I was missing while living here in our bubble of Toronto and even the UCC community.

“I can honestly say I have never learned so much in so little time: talking with Ukrainians about what they are facing in their home country; listening to Ghanaians as they described their sometime perilous journeys to school; conversing with Colombians about the struggles their people are facing; and asking Fijians about the best tourist spots for the day I finally visit.

“I found myself grappling with a new reality. That there is so much going on in the world that we may be unaware of, perspectives that have been neglected by the mainstream, and that I had so many misconceived notions of people or places in what once seemed foreign lands.

“As part of the experience, I was able to partake in a sample class taught by an NYU professor. The class was titled ‘Cosmopolitanism.’ It was a foreign concept to me and, to be quite honest, something I had only the slightest idea about. By the end of the class, my notions of being a global citizen were challenged.

“We in Toronto pride ourselves on being an exemplar of multiculturalism, but is it truly enough? What does it really mean to be a global citizen? What does it mean to be globally minded? This is how I would summarize my journey to the Middle East.

“Through a process of debunking culturally imposed myths about life in the UAE, debating real issues with people directly affected, and being introduced to outlooks which were unheard of but incredibly deep and inspiring, I began to redefine what this meant to me. Connecting with people from Nigeria, Iceland, Malaysia, Bolivia and even TFS helped me grow. In a sense, we can see this here at UCC, particularly with our extremely diverse boarding community with a plethora of nations represented by the boys in Seaton’s and Wedd’s, many of which we heard shouted out yesterday.

“I believe in global mindedness. I think each and every one of us needs to consider his outlook on the world. What we are wrong about, what we are unaware of and how to improve on that. We need to think about our fortunate place in the world and how we can possibly benefit others from it. It is easy for us to forget, overlook or even neglect some of the events happening in countries which seem distant to us. We can become consumed by the littlest of things here at home when peoples’ lives are being turned upside down on the other side of the world, sometimes at the hands of our own influence.

“Global mindedness is not just acknowledgment, but one step further, where it shapes how we think, and even the inspiration for our actions. It is extremely important for us to be engaging with issues outside these halls, this country and even this continent. It is important for us to educate ourselves about the goings on in remote places on this earth. But perhaps most importantly, we must strive to interact with and learn from a broad spectrum of cultures. Not just tolerance, or respect, but cooperation.

“This is what I believe to be a vital component of being globally minded, and I believe we should all strive to be models of this.”