“What I fear is complacency. When things always become better, people tend to want more for less work.” –Lee Kuan Yew
Over the course of the dialogue many of my friends and family asked me why I was going to study climate change in Southeast Asia. They understood why I wanted to travel, but they did not understand why my university was taking a group of students abroad to study something that is present all over the globe. I admit that I also was unsure of how much would be different when learning about climate change across the globe, but now I see how all of the effort paid off. We say that we want to help change the world but we can only do that if we actually go out and see the world. I read the articles about flooding in Jakarta but the understanding I got from hearing from the citizen of Jakarta, seeing the kampungs and even reading The Jakarta Post each morning gave me a better understanding of Indonesia and its struggle with social and climate change issues than all of the reading I did to prepare for this trip. With the Internet you can research anything you want and feel like the world is at your fingertips, but if you want to really understand an issue or a place you need to put in the effort. In Singapore I was so impressed by everything that I saw, but after the panel with people who were from Singapore who said everything was perfect I think many of us were left disillusioned. However I was not satisfied with the sample that we heard from and I thought that there must be people who have different views. When we were given a tour by a university students I knew it was our chance to ask questions to someone closer to our age who might not be completely satisfied by the way Singapore was run. She told us that there were problems in Singapore and things that she did not agree with, but she also said she did not want Singapore to become like the U.S. either. Before coming to Singapore I had a completely different opinion than when I first arrived, and then after the panel I had another impression, and only after digging deeper do I feel like I have a decent understanding of Singapore. Now I realize why all the effort had to be put in to bring students abroad to learn about climate change. If we want students to be global citizens that can bring change in the world, we must give them the opportunities to do so. If we want students to engage with communities abroad reading case studies in class is not enough. If we want to do better we need to do more work.