I was lucky to have the chance to participate in Soliya. The safe space Soliya provided for us gave us the opportunity to freely express our opinions, communicate with people from different backgrounds, understand different cultures better and discuss sensitive topics that I normally avoid discussing on other platforms. People usually attack one another online because of their different views, that is why when our facilitator asked us about the rules we need to have in order to have better experience in the beginning of the first session, we decided that not being judged for our opinions should be the first rule to be able to communicate better. Thus, in my opinion the main difference between Soliya and other platforms is that in Soliya we had the chance to actually listen to each other and have a civilized discussion rather than forcing our opinions upon others. For instance, I talked about being a muslim and what Islam represents freely in Soliya, while on other platforms it is hard to talk about Islam without being bullied or called a terrorist be others. My group was composed of people from Italy, Palestine, The US , The Netherlands, Libya, and Egypt, and we all wanted to learn about each cultures more beyond of what the media presents. I don’t know if Soliya was different for me because my group was very open minded or because people are more tolerant when provided a safe place to talk, but either ways I enjoyed every discussion and I now feel way confident speaking to foreigners.
I have spent all my life in Egypt with people who speak the same language as I, and I haven’t had the chance to have a non academic meaningful conversation with a person with different culture than mine. Soliya was able to provide me with this opportunity and I enjoyed every moment. I found out that I love talking to people about my culture, and I realized that I want to talk more. I want people to know that most of the stereotypes that are presented about my country and my culture are not true. Moreover, I discovered a new side of me that is more tolerant and compassionate to other cultures. It help me recognize the similarities we have as humans regardless of our different backgrounds. I think using Soliya as an online platform made us all uncomfortable at first, but at the end we realized that meeting people online helped us focus more on the other person’s personality rather than focusing on the shallow characteristics of that person. For instance, I did not focus on what others were or how they look, but I focused on what they were saying. I think being on an online platform made me less self conscious and more secure; I actually had an online interview for an internship and thanks to this experience I felt really comfortable doing it. Moreover, Integrating programs like soiya in other courses would be beneficial experience for other students especially for the ones who are majoring in marketing like me. Since marketing students are asked to keep up with global trends, interacting with global students could allow them to access more information on different markets, of course these programs must be tailored for marketing students.
To enhance the global communication in any platform and any face to face discussion, some ground rules like the ones we had in Soliya must be adopted. For instance, the people who will use the platforms must be able to respect others and their opinions. They must be informed of the things that could disrespect other cultures and allow others to speak without being interrupted. Adopting a talk button like the one that was in Soliya’s platform is essential. A facilitator must be present in this talk to ensure its safety. Furthermore, making sure that there is enough time for each person to speak, interesting material to talk about and common points that are present in all cultures to talk about are three main things that must be there in order to have a well organized talk. However, sometimes it is not possible to have a constructive discussion if two parties in the discussion are from countries that are already in dispute. therefore, it is safer to avoid the presence of these parties unless the aim of this talk is to help solving there dispute.
At the end I would like to say that Soliya was an unforgettable experience that I would probably appreciate forever. I hope that I will be able to return and participate again one day and meet new people or hopefully meet one of my group members again. Even though I did not expect that this experience would be this interesting I now know that it was an important step in my life and a life changing experience.