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UNST 139

Globalization

Katie Phan
06/2015
Reflection Essay

On some days when I am feeling contemplative, I wonder why Im in school.


Why am I sitting through hours of lectures, cramming for exams, and pulling allnighters for projects and assignments? Why do I need a college degree, when I can
just simply find a job and avoid the pain of student loans, constant stress and sleep
deprivation? What are the true benefits of higher education, if there even are any?
Before my freshman year at Portland State University, I was skeptical about
pursuing more education and felt like I had learned everything I needed to know
back in high school. Due to the wishes of my parents, I agreed to sign up for classes
and promised them I would graduate in four years. In the beginning, all I wanted
was to quickly obtain that degree, be done with school, and finally enter the real
world and start making money. As I reflect on my first year in college, I feel that my
previous thoughts were flawed and that I was wrong. There is more to college than
a simple diploma. Along the way, I have learned so much; l discovered new ways of
communicating information to others, challenged my preconceived ideas and
notions about certain issues, questioned my social responsibilities and how they
affected others, and learned to appreciate the diversity of the human experience
through looking at things from a different perspective.
Back in high school, Ive always thought that the traditional methods of
communication, such as writing or visuals, were the most effective. Most of the
time, I conveyed my ideas and thoughts through essays and shied away from other
methods. I was pretty stubborn in my belief that written means were the only and
best way at communicating with others. Throughout the year, I learned that there
are many more other methods that are equally effective at conveying ideas. For
example, I could relay my information through a presentation, graphic models and
matrices, and even numbers. I learned how to utilize things that I normally disliked,
mathematics and speeches, as valuable ways of communicating and connecting
with my peers. Even though I preferred words, I learned to use statistics and
numbers in my regression analysis in order to support my claims and provide more
validity to my ideas. In addition to presenting information, I discovered that there
were also other ways in receiving new material as well, such as watching
documentary films and using the Internet.

UNST 139
Globalization

Katie Phan
06/2015

Furthermore, I also learned to question my actions and how they impact


society and other individuals. Every decision we make and every choice we take
ultimately has an effect on society and the environment, whether were aware of it
or not. I learned to really think about my decisions and the weight of them on others
and the rest of the world. I remember the conflicting emotions I experienced when I
watched the documentary called The Corporation, and how one of the companies it
addressed was intentionally hurting animals in order to make profit. I felt anger
because the companys actions of animal cruelty and deceit, and its blatant
disregard of ethics, had such a negative impact on the environment and truly
affected me. Also, as I completed my project on climate change, I realized that
everyone should be responsible for keeping our planet environmentally sound and
sustainable, and that a simple decision such as not recycling or driving an
automobile can have such a long term impact on the Earth and other people.
Through this, I learned that every person has an ethical and social responsibility to
fulfill, to become a decent individual and to care for our environment and the rest of
the world.
On the path to becoming a more active and critical learner, I had to challenge
my own personal thoughts and notions, as well as my thinking processes. Most of
the time, I gather my thoughts and ideas from superficial information and take
things at face value. I previously didnt question the things I was learning and rarely
delved deep into the knowledge that was presented to me. I am embarrassed to say
this but coming from a person who was born in Vietnam, my knowledge on the
Vietnam War is pretty much nonexistent. I have always thought that the cause for
the entire war was Communism, and the reason why the South Vietnamese lost was
because America withdrew their troops and support. My preconceived beliefs about
the Vietnam War were challenged when I was writing my Just War theory paper, and
I realized that I was quite wrong in my ideas about the war and the reason South
Vietnam lost. I came to this conclusion after conducting more research and
investigation into the war, and discovered that America and South Vietnam had a
slim chance of winning, and that Communism was not the only reason why the war
was fought. Also, I learned that a key skill in becoming a more empowered student
was critical thinking, and how asking questions and inquiring about the material
helps improve learning. I tested my thinking processes by questioning the

UNST 139
Globalization

Katie Phan
06/2015

effectiveness of foreign aid in developing nations in my Sachs vs. Easterly essay,


and developed my critical thinking skills by using my questions as a basis and
foundation for my ideas and hypotheses.
In retrospect, I have lived quite a sheltered life. I was raised in America, and
even though Im of a different race, I cant remember any particular instances of
discrimination or prejudice aimed towards me. Maybe it was due to Portland being
such a liberal city, yet I would be lying if I said Ive never encountered any racist
remarks, but Ive come to learn to pass those off as just ignorant comments. My
parents provided me with everything I needed and I grew up in a comfortable and
stable environment, safe and protected from the real world. Before this FRINQ class,
I had some, albeit limited, knowledge about different parts of the world, and knew
that there are some people who are less fortunate than me and live in poorer
conditions. I just never really knew how terrible and poor those living conditions
were until now. One assignment that helped me widen my knowledge on other
perspectives and human experiences in the world was the Practicing Poverty
project, in which I learned to walk in anothers shoes and experience everyday life
from the view of someone different than me. It was shocking to learn that there are
some people who survive on less than $2 dollars a day, and by having to live like
them, I could better understand their experiences and the struggles in their lives. I
feel like this project helped me grow as a more empathic person and I learned to
appreciate my life a lot more after that experience. This goal was the one that I felt
was most important and I think that it teaches such crucial values such as empathy
and compassion by helping us understand different cultures and perspectives that
make us diverse from one another.
Lastly, a personal area of growth and development that I experienced was in
the classroom setting. In the beginning of the year, I felt extremely uncomfortable
and uneasy whenever I had to speak in a class full of my peers. I am typically very
shy and quiet, and tend to stray away from saying anything in class. Throughout the
course of the year, I became more open and grew to eventually like speaking up in
class, especially during mentor sessions. Due to the pleasant and welcoming
atmosphere in class, I felt more comfortable with discussions and voicing my
opinions and thoughts to others. This is something that I feel is a personal milestone
for me since Ive never felt very comfortable in classroom settings in my previous

UNST 139
Globalization

Katie Phan
06/2015

years of high school. Also, due to the multiple discussions that occurred in class, I
learned to be more open-minded about certain topics and to the opinions of others.
I feel like I gained more knowledge when discussing issues with my peers and
working in groups became a lot easier.
All in all, my first year at Portland State was interesting and enjoyable. Ive
come to realize that college isnt all about getting that shiny degree in order to
obtain a high paying job, rather it is more about personal growth and learning new
skills and material. It is about making friends and building those long lasting
connections with others. It is also about becoming less closed-minded and more
open to the opinions, ideas, and feelings of others around us. It is about
understanding that we live in a diverse world full of different people. I feel that
FRINQ definitely had a large playing role in widening my knowledge about the world
and teaching me vital skills and values that I can be used over the course of my life.