All posts by Carrie Karsgaard

The EU Referendum: Let’s Choose Hope not Despair

Guest post by: Laurence Watt, Political Science Major 

On June 23, the citizens of the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%. Although for some it’s a time for jubilation, for many others it is a time of great concern and sadness.

Immediately after the Leave side had been declared victorious, the value of the Pound plummeted, the stock market took a hammering, and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign. During the campaign, many in the UK – as well as around the world – perceived the leave campaign to be driven by racism and xenophobia. On top of that, many Britons are fearful that their ability to work, study and travel in Europe is under threat. Perhaps most significantly however, the desires of 48% of the British population as well as the majority of young voters are to be ignored.

However, what’s done is done. Democracy may have its flaws, but it’s the best we have. And so, although many will be unhappy with the result, my objective for this piece is to dispel some myths and propose a more optimistic vision for the future of Great Britain and Europe.

First, although it’s undeniable that elements of the Leave camp were driven by racism and fear, it’s both erroneous and dangerous to suggest that 52% of the British people who voted leave did so out of racism and hatred for Europe and immigrants. In fact, many who voted leave did so for reasons that had nothing to do with bigotry and everything to do with democracy and sovereignty.

Before considering this point, please keep in mind that Europe and the European Union are very different things: Europe is a rich continent exhibiting an array of diverse cultures and opportunities; the European Union is a political-economic union between 28 countries, headed by an unelected European Commission which proposes and enforces laws for member-states. In recent years, the EU has been criticized for becoming increasingly authoritarian and undemocratic. Already, the EU has overruled the demands of elected governments (consider Greece, Ireland and Portugal for example), pushed for greater powers, and stressed its intent to establish a European army with it’s own foreign policy. In particular, many people in Britain were upset that over 55% of UK laws were made in the EU by officials they neither elected nor can vote out.

Secondly, although the pound and the overall UK economy has taken a hit, Great Britain can and will recover. It may not fully recover by tomorrow or even next year, but it will in time. After all, it’s not the politicians or Eurocrats who’ve made Britain the fifth largest economy in the world; it’s the indefatigable British workers. Whether the UK is part of political-economic union or not, the British people will continue to go to work and Great Britain will be strong enough to survive by forging its own trade deals with the rest of the world.

Thirdly, no matter how people voted, what’s to be admired is that the British people participated in one of the largest exercises of democracy in it’s modern history with a voter turnout of 72.2%. Also, for the majority, this vote was very difficult for people to make – especially considering that both campaigns for leave and remain indulged in fear-mongering. In fact, there were many people who were scared of voting based on how they’d be perceived by their friends and family members. In the aftermath, it’s vitally important to remember that every person has a right to their opinion and a right to vote, and those rights should be respected whether you disagree with their stance or not.

Lastly, already a number of leaders from around the world have come out and reassured the UK that, contrary to what some political forecasters predicted, armageddon is not on the horizon. “While the UK’s relationship with the EU will change, one thing that will not change is the special relationship that exists between our two nations,” said Barack Obama. According to Sadiq Khan, London’s new Labour Mayor, although the result may be an unexpected and even an unfortunate one, he believes there’s no need to panic and that he’s confident Britain can survive and prosper outside the European Union. French President François Hollande has also weighed in on the result, implying that Britain’s decision could actually help reform the EU for the better. “To move forward, Europe cannot act as before,” said Hollande.

So, what’s the positive vision for the United Kingdom outside of the EU? Well, let’s start with what we know. We know that the United Kingdom will continue to trade with Europe: Germany will continue to sell it’s cars and France will continue to sell it’s Wine. We also know that the British parliament will once again become supreme by no longer having to bend to the will of the EU commission. Finally, we know that to formally divorce from the EU, the UK will have to invoke article 50 of the EU constitution, which gives it two years to work out it’s economic relations with Eurozone members. However, it isn’t just what we know that should be taken into consideration – it’s what we can hope and strive for.

My sense of optimism for the future of the UK isn’t based on any factual evidence, rather it’s based on hope. What gives me hope? The kindness, intelligence and strength of many friends and family members living in the UK give me hope. The proclivity of the British people to stand up in the face of unimaginable hardship and fight even harder for the values they cherish gives me hope. The idea that finally the EU could be ready to make reforms to address it’s democratic deficit and stop suppressing the elected governments of it’s member states gives me hope. To some it may feel like we’ve embarked on a dangerous path and sunk far below expectations, but more than ever before it’s time we keep calm, keep a stiff upper lip, and carry on. This perspective may be tough to adopt, but it’s ultimately a question of whether we’re courageous enough to choose hope over despair.

Overall, there are undoubtedly many risks ahead of the UK and millions of Britons are justified in feeling upset. However, in the face of great hardship exists great opportunities and, if Britain has proven one thing in the past century, it’s that there is no obstacle too great that it can’t overcome – unless it concerns football. Ultimately, no matter the consequences, I will always be proud to be British.

Why museums have become my guilty pleasure

Guest post by Mirella Cullen, BA in Cultural Studies and English – currently on exchange at the University of Manchester in the UK

I am usually met with either scoffs or admiration when I mention how I can (and now do) get lost in museums/exhibits/galleries/what-have-yous for hours. They are sites of education and enlightenment through cultural exhibitions, where one has the opportunity to learn about topics ranging from Dadism to the Byzantine Empire – all under one roof.

Being on exchange in the UK has been a blessing for someone like me because the vast majority of their museums/exhibits/galleries/what-have-yous are free (something I’m not used to – I’m looking at you, Royal Ontario Museum). Now combine free with a culturally-obsessed student and you’ve got a winner.

As a result, I’ve been on a knowledge rampage since I’ve been here: London’s Imperial War Museum and British Museum, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Technology to name a few.

So how could I ever be displeased?

(Un?)fortunately I have reached a point where I am more overcome with guilt, rather than enjoyment, with every plundered mask from Africa and every exhumed mummy from Egypt. The majority of what you see at these sites of education, enlightenment, and culture are stolen materials.

It may not help that I am a settler born in a British colony that is still working towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities, but it’s alarming to see the minimal, if any, acknowledgement of Britain’s colonial past in exhibits and how/why those objects got there in the first place.

It got to the point where I felt compelled to leave written, publically displayed feedback (in my defense, they were literally asking for it) at the Manchester Museum addressing their use of the term “Indian” in reference to Indigenous peoples of what is now North America. What I left on that note (albeit with harsher words) is what I’ll say here: they should know better.

And that’s what flabbergasts me. Curators and museum staff should have the educational background to at least properly identify their stolen goods.You may think “stolen goods” is going too far, but can we really continue to justify the privateering of cultural objects, people, and animals for educational purposes when the information provided isn’t even accurate?

British Museum, London, England.

At this point I feel like my cynicism is apparent but maybe not substantiated, so I offer a comparison: Animal activists have long attacked the confinement of animals in zoos or for entertainment purposes, and as a cultural studies student, I can’t help but feel like that is the same treatment that these cultural materials receive. This isn’t to solicit empathy or equate the damage to livelihood, but hopefully it paints a better picture of the importance of incorrect cultural representations and the perpetuation of falsities.

There may not be any life or blood in museum collections, but there was. And is there any educational benefit to their display without proper information or acknowledgement of how and why these goods were able to be there in the first place? No, they are stolen or “discovered” goods (unless they have been donated to the respective institution by a representative group).

By no means do all exhibits fall victim to the glossing over unfavourable aspects of a country’s past.  I’ve stumbled upon radical alternatives to these publicly funded institutions that call themselves “People’s Museum of (insert city)”… which also happen to be free (win!). These sites are dedicated to Britons of the past two centuries who have paved the way for democratic and socialist reformation in the United Kingdom.


People’s History Museum, Manchester, England.

But still – the jump from invading countries, dismantling their system through violence, twisting their ideologies, and leaving them with no choice but dependence to the crown – to the celebration of their democratic politics, again, without really profiling the atrocities of colonization… worries me.

Museums and the like serve a purpose, don’t get me wrong, and my obsession (guilt in tow) is only growing – there just needs to be some type of reform on how their collections are presented to visitors. If you’re over the age of 12, I refuse to believe you need to be told that India is not in North America, but still, here we are…

The world, stories and me

Guest post by Trophy Ewila, Bachelor of Arts (Economics)

I do not agree with the statement that the world is getting smaller due to technological advancements. If the world is getting smaller, it’s due to story. How you may ask, are stories reducing the breadth and depth of the world? Think about this: at a recent event, a young girl won a literature writing competition. The young writer was Ugandan. She had never left her country or seen snow before, yet her winning narrative followed a one Mary Higgins of Staffordshire and her escapades with snow. This is my description of a smaller world!

Growing up in Uganda, literature was an abstract concept to me. It did not correlate with reality.  For starters we were taught in English and not the local languages. Most of the books we read in kindergarten were foreign (British to be precise). The concepts presented were strange. One thing that always baffled me was the notion of kids playing in the ‘park’. I often wondered why people would play at a bus station since in Uganda we picked the bus from the ‘park’. This incongruence creates a larger social impact in the country. This is what we read and that’s how we are taught to write. The self is lost in this tradition and translation.

To that effect at the age of 8 years old, I detested books. I presumed that all those who read were simply seeking social accreditation while pretending to love the experience. This problem stemmed from the mismatch between what the education system offered and what was our social reality. I only started to enjoy reading once I saw myself in the words. The sight of a book written by a Ugandan president at an airport in Dubai put things into perspective. I saw freedom. The setting was my city, the story was my country, the words my possibility. I had never imagined that story on paper can be yours. The descriptions were vividly Uganda. I honestly cannot describe the experience; I will never be able to. But I know what I felt, and it permitted me to see a deeper social issue. Ugandans are scared to write about themselves, and if they don’t get out of this fear they will die. Not physically but mentally.

It is after this day that I went mad with books, reading to compensate for the loss of time. Chasing stories. That mystical aura that engulfed me listening to my uncle’s tales of the past and his well-crafted fables was present in every page. I found story, I found humanity.

If all we could do was speak. Not allow anyone tell us what we should say or do. But speak, not just by mouth or with words but with every essence of us the world gets bigger. For what is the world to us but our experience with others.

But before speaking we should first listen. Listen to voices from afar. It will tell you how big the world is. When was the last time you read Japanese literature or Nicaraguan poetry, listened to Australian music or paid attention to West African history? How big do you think you can visualize the size of the world when all you see is one major story of one general region. Yes, one can communicate faster through technology, but to what essence is this speed in relation to the size of the world?

The world is as big as the number of stories present. Tell yours and expand this world. Listen to others and expand your world.

We are more than labels

Guest post by: Jorge Garcia, BSC

In the last couple of decades, our society has made great progress when it comes to racial discrimination, and although we still have a long way to go, we can slowly see improvements with each new generation. However, there is another side to this issue that is often ignored or minimized. It is what we call “White Privilege”.

In short, white privilege can be considered to be the other side of racism. It is that immense list of everyday conflicts that some people have the privilege of ignoring simply because they are “white”. It is the privilege of being considered an individual and not just another member of a specific group or race. It is the privilege of being a voice, and not just a stereotype or a set of labels.

“We Are More Than Labels” is a series of portraits that intend to expose some of the invisible labels that people are given simply because of their color. It is an exploration of both the prejudices that people of color have to go through, and in the counterpart, the lack of these labels on white people; which result in the privilege of not being judged based on their skin color, the privilege of doubt, and the privilege of trust.

We Are More Than Labels_1 We Are More Than Labels_2 We Are More Than Labels_3 We Are More Than Labels_4

Where(s) are you from?

Why is it that home is expected to be a single location, rather than a series of familiar experiences?
Why is it that home is expected to be a single location, rather than a series of familiar experiences?

Written by Himaini Sharma, 4th year Biochemistry/Psychology major.

How many of you know what Third Culture Kids  are? It’s very possible there is one sitting next to you in lecture right now. They sound like an outlandish species, don’t they? An exotic, privileged, strange breed of hybrids?

Well, they’re not your typical international students, but they want to fit in just as much as you do.

Before reading my lengthy process of self-reflection, please read the article that led to me finally being able to voice my thoughts to understand the plethora of emotions that have been in turmoil in my mind since 2012:


My name is Himayini Sharma, I’m a 20-year old Science student, and I am a Third Culture Kid (TCK). I was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Since then, I moved to a new country every three years: Turkmenistan, Texas, Mexico, India, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and now, Canada. My father is Indian, my mother is part Mexican and part Sri Lankan, and we speak four languages at home. But, where am I from? That’s the problem. I don’t know.

Coming to terms with this problem after moving to UBC gave me a hard time. Before coming here, I’d always been at international schools (and if not, I was in a country like India where nobody questioned my ethnicity/identity). After moving to a place where the majority of people aren’t third-culture kids, however, all of this started happening really fast…

Let’s start with the white lies I personally told and tell on a daily basis as a TCK. When I’m in India, I say I’m Indian and I’m never questioned. Likewise, I say I’m Sri Lankan in Sri Lanka and Mexican when I’m anywhere in Latin America. Sometimes I get a slightly confused “are you fully actually this ethnicity?” look when I’m in those places – maybe because I look a little different – but not too often.

When I’m in an African country, I immediately say I’m either from Zimbabwe or Zambia, because I’ve lived there recently, feel a part of the countries, and just don’t want to have that “but if you’re from those other countries what are you doing here” conversation because it’s too exhausting.

When I used to live in Europe, which was from birth till grade 8 – with a couple of years elsewhere in between – I used to say I’m either Indian or Mexican because, although I felt very much at home there, I didn’t speak any of the local languages (Swedish, then Croatian), and I obviously look (and sound) like a total foreigner.

Prior to moving to Canada, whenever I was on vacation somewhere, let’s say the US, I, again, either said I’m Indian or Mexican – leaning more towards Mexican in the US because that way people ask me fewer questions about what I’m doing so far from home.

Heaven forbid I actually meet a stranger (or another international student) from India or Mexico or Sri Lanka who gives me a suspicious or disapproving look just because I don’t look or sound Indian or Mexican or Sri Lankan enough – i.e. don’t speak English with an Indian or Mexican or Sri Lankan accent or don’t completely immerse myself in Bollywood or Telenovelas or don’t particularly choose to majorly associate with people of the same ethnicity as me the way many foreign students tend to feel comfortable doing when in a new country. That was one thing that always made me uncomfortable – not “looking” or “sounding” like I belong to my countries of origin. Belonging yet not belonging to the community that is my identity at university – the international student community.

After moving to Canada, I still haven’t gotten used to being an international student in a predominantly domestic population. It’s enough cause for (although usually pleasant) surprise that someone at UBC is from a foreign country, so you can only imagine the panic I feel when someone asks me where I’m from: “it’s not only because we’re unsure ourselves, but also because we’re unsure of the reactions we’ll get.”

In first year, I would proceed to answer that question with my typical “Half Indian part Sri Lankan part Mexican” answer. Little did I realize that people who haven’t been around TCKs have a hard time imagining how someone can be from more than one place. I distinctly remember a turning point – when I answered someone’s question with my typical answer, and the person laughed at me and responded with, “no, I mean, where are you really from?” – possibly expecting to hear a typical answer like “Vancouver” or “Kelowna,” to which I just responded with a blank look of confusion and annoyance and an eventual “no, I’m an international student.” That didn’t mollify the person who continued to look incredulous. “Riiiiight,” they said with raised eyebrows and narrowed eyes. I began to sweat.

Did I really sound that outlandish? I started to feel self-conscious about my origin and avoided answering the question whenever I could. From then on, if someone asked me where I’m from, I would just say “India” or “Mexico,” and add “international student” after that, to which I got surprised yet accepting nods.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always get the same reaction. Sometimes, people are genuinely curious and I’m glad to explain the TCK lifestyle to them. But there are other times, like the one I described above, that just leave me feeling more awkward than ever.

Come second semester of first year, I realized a second thing. If you say you are from somewhere, people will automatically assume you were born there and have lived there since then. Now, that’s totally typical and fine of many, many, many people I have met and befriended and gone to school with throughout my life. However, it added an extra layer of discomfort for me, because I could meet someone, tell them I am Indian, only to have them bring up the topic of high school… Riiiight, I didn’t go to high school there, I went to high school in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Which brings us back to square one.

Or hometowns. Like the “hometown” section on Facebook. What the heck am I supposed to write there? I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, but I was so young when I lived there that it didn’t significantly impact my life! Right now I practically have no affiliation to the place (unlike my parents’ cherished memories of the beautiful city) – but how do I explain that in a few words!? Do you now see how messy this gets? At this point I would just panic whenever someone asked me where I’m from. Why does it matter anyway!? I’m in the here and now and that’s what matters to me!

Facebook constantly reminds us that it will always help us remain connected to the rest of the globe. However – ironically – we can only list one hometown on our timelines. Once again, the fact that society expects us to call one place home is reinforced.
Facebook constantly reminds us that it will always help us remain connected to the rest of the globe. However – ironically – we can only list one hometown on our timelines. Once again, the fact that society expects us to call one place home is reinforced.

Once sophomore year began, whenever someone asked me the dreaded question, I would just say “Zambia.” It’s where my family lived at the moment, it’s where I graduated high school, and it’s ONE country. Little did I (then) realize that would set off a whole new series of questions regarding race and ethnicity. “If you’re from Zambia, why are you like… Not black?” Or, “Oh, I thought you were black.” One thing I have heard countlessly in the past year: “Your English is perfect.” Dear God, would the questions, assumptions, and incredulity never end?

Not that I mind explaining demographics in the slightest to people I am having a decent conversation with. It’s just… what do I say to a person I have just met, e.g. a stranger sitting next to me in a lecture or on the bus? I can’t say anything without taking up 90% of the conversation and getting typical reactions. And that makes me anxious.

I told myself I was done with these white lies. At a campus as small as the Okanagan campus, people who have me as a mutual friend or coworker are bound to come across confusion regarding where I’m from while I’m not there. I didn’t want that to happen because that just leads to more anxiety-inducing questions. Or worse, people could think I’m lying. I started saying, “Indian/Mexican by origin, grew up in Europe and Africa.” This worked well enough for me – until people asked why I have moved around so much and I had to explain the fact that my parents are diplomats.

Many people don’t know what diplomats are, and many who do assume we are beyond rich because we are “practically on vacation forever.” This thought has crossed my mind more times than I would like to admit: “I think people assume that I am uppity or like to brag about myself when it was just the truth.” I hate this assumption. I’m dying of nerves and anxiety at being accepted yet I am seen as a show-off. My parents and I are a typical middle class family. My parents have boring desk jobs in offices with 4-figured salaries. I didn’t get my own cell phone till 9th grade, and my own laptop till university. We belong to embassies. Embassies are representatives of foreign governments in each country. We don’t pay the ridiculously high private school tuition fees worldwide – the embassy does. Not all international students are filthy rich. True, we pay really high university fees, but you don’t know that my parents are struggling to pay my fees and that I have a merit-based scholarship to UBC. Many of us are like that. It makes me uncomfortable that our struggle is downplayed or ignored or declared as non-existent just because we get an “international student” stamp branded on our foreheads the second we answer the dreaded “where are you from” question. Can you believe that “withdrawal from social situations, and an inability to fit in are all common to TCKs, overwhelmed by their lack of national identity?” I can, now.

But that’s not my main point. Where were we? Oh yes, I was done with these white lies. I was done with a simple question and answer dictating my whole day, not to mention being met with responses that made my head spin. Sure enough, these white lies became less white. I started just responding to the question with an expected answer: “Vancouver” or “Kelowna.” My answer was met with a friendly “alright” or nod. I breathed out. Life was easy again.

Junior year rolled around and I became more involved on campus than I was before. Reality hit me like a Mack truck. Why am I lying to people? Just because I don’t want to have a conversation? That’s ridiculous and self-centered of me. Nobody cares about my life story. Why am I getting so worked up over nothing? It’s just a question. Answer it. There are people with real problems out there. They asked. It wouldn’t do for the President of the International Student Club to lie about their own international background, would it?

I pushed my discomfort and distaste aside. Anyone who asked me where I’m from got a “Indian and Mexican by origin, lived in Europe and Africa” as an answer, with an immediate “diplomat parents, yes I am an international student, and no I’m not rich” as an afterthought with an accompanying smirk or wink. And hey, it’s not a perfect answer, but it works. It works as long as I keep an open mind to honestly answering genuine follow-up questions driven by curiosity and not disapproval. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable anymore (except when I’m introducing myself to a circle of new people at an ice-breaker, where I just resort to humor or “it’s a long story” to mask my fear). It makes me feel accepted, and makes me appreciate how many people at UBC and in Canada have open minds. It makes me wish I had pushed my awkwardness away earlier so I could enjoy my first two years more. But I don’t have any regrets, as this was a period of learning and growth for me. And it all started because of a simple question: “where are you from?”

Nevertheless, the fact remains that “within the Third Culture Kid (TCK) community, distaste for the ‘Where are you from?’ strikes a common chord. It’s indicative of the confused identity that comes innately with a TCK status.”

I respect and appreciate people who would honestly like to know more about the TCK culture – who keep an open mind and understand that we are people who want to be accepted too. We didn’t choose to stick out. And it’s okay to be amazed or awed. Our own parents don’t fully understand what it’s like to be us: “what separates us from immigrants or casual travelers” is that “instead of developing our identity and worldview in one locale and then leaving, we develop these characteristics while in constant transit.” We were born to this life, whereas our parents (mostly) were in one place for the first 20-30 years of their lives until they went overseas. We don’t know a life that doesn’t involve home being equivalent to three years here then there and on and on.

I will continue circling “other” under “ethnicity” and “origin” on every questionnaire I ever fill out. I will be frazzled with nerves every time I am asked where I am from. However, I wouldn’t change my TCK upbringing for the world. Nor would I change my UBC experience for the world. I would, however, prefer it if stating where we came from had less of a prominence in introductions.

We are caught in a dichotomy of wanting to go back home, yet knowing that we are home. Time – the present – is the first and best home we’ve ever had. The intangibility of home is the price we pay for having known and loved throughout the globe.
We are caught in a dichotomy of wanting to go back home, yet knowing that we are home. Time – the present – is the first and best home we’ve ever had. The intangibility of home is the price we pay for having known and loved throughout the globe.

Public speaking is possible!

According to recent studies, public speaking is placed #1 for people’s worst fears. Which subsequently beats out skydiving, spiders and even death!

This is how I have gone through the motions….

“The time  subsequently arrives when you get called up on stage and immediately your heart starts racing. You receive a hot flash every three seconds followed by a swift shiver to even the anxiety out.

Once you start the short walk to your worst nightmare you can’t help but feel as if you have chicken legs wiggling about underneath you. Next, you finally make it to the platform and the lights somehow manage to blind you so effortlessly.

Right before you open your mouth to speak, you feel as if you forgot everything you ever wanted to say.  So many eyes are transfixed solely on you. Then, once you have successfully made that leap over the Grand Canyon of nerves, you manage to start speaking flawlessly. You finally feel as if you could conquer anything.

Lastly, when you step down from that platform, you can not even remember what the heck just happened or more so what you just performed. It seems like a foggy dream, and yet it was very real.”

People fear and dislike public speaking for many reasons.

A few examples are…

  • Being self-conscious in front of a large group
  • Fear of being judged
  • Bad experiences
  • Comparing yourself to fellow students

Public speaking can do so much good for you.

A few examples are…

  • Immensely builds up your self confidence
  • Very important for your future career
  • One of the most effective way to get your message across
  • It demonstrates your knowledge

There are so many places you can get involved!

  • Student leader conference
  • Media center / UBCO-TV
  • Model united nations
  • Global Fest
  • Debate Club ( )  
  • Toastmasters ( )
  • Tedx UBCOkanagan talks

– Stella Mozin