Just the Beginning

“Don’t look at people with one eye,” is a common phrase in Iraq that reminds us all to not judge someone on a mere first impression, but rather to look much deeper to see what’s on their hearts.

It’s amazing to see how a group of 24 Iraqi students and five American mentors bonded and have already formed friendships in less than a week. Before our group had even spent 24 hours together we were dancing to salsa music on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, bonding over pizza and even singing some long lost Eminem songs.

At our first session with Richmond Action Dialogues, we discussed topics ranging from our dreams for our life, our country and the world to whether religion is an important factor in a relationship. All of the Iraqi students picked the topic they were most interested in discussing. I was in a group that discussed dreams. Dreams can be our vision for the future, or as I learned, in Iraqi culture an actual dream could be telling the dreamer something that is to come in the future.

Our dialogue about dreams really opened my eyes when one person in my group said she had stopped dreaming a long time ago because she knew her big dreams could never become a reality. This absolutely broke my heart. From the time I was a little girl my mom has always encouraged me to follow my heart and chase after my dreams. I’ve never considered that many people can’t have some dreams because of certain situations in their country. For me a big dream is becoming an international journalist, but for many Iraqi women simply going to lunch with girlfriends without being accompanied by a male is a dream come true.

I love that my group was able to express their dreams because it really gave me some insight on each and every person. My hope is that through this program at least one dream comes true and we are able to learn more from each other. When we express our dreams one dream seems to always be the same: for the world to be at peace. This program could very well be a small building block towards achieving that dream.

For more updates about the Iraqi Young Leader Exchange Program at VCU, Follow Alix on Twitter.

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