I wrote this reflection in response to a prompt over the Peter Singer Ted Talks video “The Why and How of Effective Altruism.” If you have the time, watch the video, then read my response when asked whether or not I agreed with his views.
After watching Peter Singer’s Ted Talks video, I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I do think that it’s upsetting that the plight of many across the world is ignored by those who could help simply because it isn’t right in front of their faces. And I think that, if you do decide to try and help those in need, you should make sure that your efforts, whether they be through time or donation, actually help people in an efficient way. As Singer said, you must use both your heart and your head to guide you through these decisions. However, I don’t agree with the way Singer went about getting these ideas across; the video seemed to me to be one giant guilt trip, and I know that I don’t respond well to those. I personally do feel obligated to help people in need, but I felt that way without his encouragement, and I think that if I didn’t, he wouldn’t have convinced me. That being said, it is good to open people’s eyes: so much of the reason people don’t help is that they don’t know that the problems are occurring. It is easy to brush off genocide and famine and poverty from the comfort of your suburban home, and Singer did a good thing in trying to make people aware of the struggles our world is facing. However, I think he was much too harsh in his execution; no one should be forced to donate, however easy it could be for them. In my experience, people respond much better to being left to their own devices than being guilted into compliance.
Though studying abroad is an incredibly exciting prospect for me, I am not without reservations about it. This is a reflection I wrote addressing some fears and concerns I have about studying abroad.
This may seem somewhat childish, but one of my biggest fears about studying abroad is the possibility of finding myself completely alone. I plan on spending a semester in a country where I’ll be speaking a language other than my first without any family or friends to guide me. I definitely know enough Spanish to get by, but will it be enough to form close bonds with people or will my time abroad be lonely? These thoughts worry me, and unfortunately, I don’t know that I can address them beforehand. Fears like these can only be quelled by actually going abroad and beginning to make friends. I can, however, spend my time beforehand improving my Spanish rather than panicking over problems that may or may not come to fruition. I think that it will also help me to speak with students who have already studied abroad to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Next to going abroad myself, talking with students who’ve done it themselves is my next best resource. I am eager to hear their stories, as well as their recommendations for do’s and don’ts on meeting people and integrating themselves into foreign society.
My other big fear for studying abroad is not getting to use my Spanish enough to become fluent. I worry about people seeing that I am an American and immediately speaking to me in English. I worry about being too afraid to start conversations with strangers because I know that my end will be less than perfect. I worry that the language immersion experience cannot possibly live up to what I’ve built it up to be. Fortunately, this fear can be eased by doing research beforehand and picking a program where I know I’ll be speaking a great deal of Spanish. It can also be helped by me practicing my Spanish as much as possible beforehand so that I can have a great knowledge base. That way, the only thing standing between me and achieving fluency is the plane ride abroad.