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The powerful vs the weak. The winners vs the losers. The “good” vs the “bad”. Which side of these stories do we know better?

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine called me on Skype. She had recently attended a conference about global issues in her hometown, and wanted to talk to me about her experience.

“How was it?” I asked her as soon as our Skype connected.

“It was going great, but…” she answered.

“But?” I questioned back.

“At one point, I had to push back down my urge to scream and leave the room!” she exclaimed. “It was the longest twenty minutes I have spent so far in my life, gripping the side of my chair to prevent myself from saying or doing anything stupid.”

“What!? What happened?” I asked her wondering what could have possibly made my friend so angry.

Considering the fact that she is one of the kindest and friendliest person I know, her sudden outburst took me by surprise.

Continuing to talk with my friend, I found out that a workshop she had hoped to attend was already full by the time she got to the conference. She had dashed into one of the first rooms she saw that was still open, settling down into an empty seat towards the back of the room. Only when the workshop officially began did my friend look up to the screen behind the main speaker, realizing for the first time what this particular workshop she had rushed into was all about.

“When I found out that the woman standing in front was from an organization that spread awareness about problems with past and modern slavery, I was actually very curious to find out more,” she said.

“Then why did you end up getting so emotional?” I asked her.

“My curiosity gradually faded, frustration replacing its place as the woman continued to talk. The information she was presenting seemed… incorrect… Because I am not an expert about the topic, I wasn’t able to question her right then and there. On the other hand, I felt as though something was off compared to what I found out when I was researching for a school project before,” my friend told me.

Coming back home, my friend had done a little bit of research on her own.

“Many of the things they presented were actually old information!” my friend exclaimed. “The organization only used evidence that supported the message they wanted to get across, ignoring information about the opposite side that is also as important to consider!”

While everyone else listened to the speaker and watched a documentary that followed very intently, getting very emotional and heated up about the topic at the end, my friend had sat there, frozen in place. “This is wrong,” she thought.

As international students, my friend and I have both had the chance to hear, learn, and analyze different opinions about global issues. We are both open to new perspectives, even if that perspective is the complete opposite of what we believe or something to do with a sensible topic about where we come from. We have learned about the importance of being able to respect everyone’s thoughts through our daily interactions with classmates from all around the world as well as in class. My friend’s experience not only shocked her, but also shocked me. An organizations big enough to be asked to lead a workshop at a conference presenting inaccurate information? That is just unacceptable. Extending this out, my friend and I wonder… Is this the reason why so many countries cannot get along in the current world? If countries could respect each other’s history, how different would our world be?

The powerful vs the weak, the winner vs the loser, and the good guy vs the bad guy, they all matter. Living in a biased world, it is up to each and every one of us to go out there on our own, to put effort into finding out both sides of stories. This story is just one side of the story right? Considering the fact that I was not the one that actually attended this workshop at the conference, I now wonder if there are any reasons or explanations that could explain why the organization presented the information they presented. I guess I will have to do some research to find out!

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