America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

The Internet Cannot Replace People-to-People Interactions

The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Scholarship recipient Shayna Orens. She recently returned from volunteering with Hands Along the Nile Development Services, Inc. in Egypt. To find an amazing opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today!

These days, it seems like the internet hasmade the world so small. With a click of a button, I can video chat with friends on the other side of the world. I can see their pictures, know what they’re doing, and easily wish them a happy birthday.

This scenario fits in perfectly to the fast-paced life of a New York City college student. So often, we see friends in passing. We stop to say hello or simply wave. Indeed it’s rare to talk in person, to sit down and enjoy lunch without impatiently waiting for food, to not have anywhere to go.

Last night for instance, I found myself facebook chatting with a friend who lives one floor above me. We were sitting in the same building, too busy to stop what we were doing to talk to each other in person.

My time in Egypt made me hyperaware of the detriments of living in such a fast-paced world. It was the first time in a while that I didn’t have constant access to my email or the internet–and it was so liberating.

The college students we met in Egypt hadn’t seemed to have been so corrupted by this idea that if we aren’t doing something, we are unproductive. I admit that usually, idle time makes me anxious. It always feels like there is something I should be doing. But my peers in Egypt helped me learn a more important lesson: how to just be.

Every meeting with the students would evolve into an evening filled with wonderful Egyptian food, incredible company, and ultimately strong friendships. I learned so much from them about the revolution, about Egypt, about life in the Middle East. But most of all, I learned that its just as important to slow down, go with the flow, and forget about the plans. As cliche as it is to talk about getting “off the beaten path,” it was these moments that were truly special.

As I reflect on everything I learned on my trip, the people I met, and the unbelievable sense of hope that I took away from Cairo, I hold one thing especially close to my heart: that even in a city of millions of people, where everything seems to be moving fast, be it Cairo, New York, or, anywhere, sometimes the best thing we can do is slow down, go against the grain, and just be where we are.

It’s great that things like facebook and skype can keep us in touch with people we care about and want to remain in touch with. But it is the moments spent in person that help us gain an understanding of who someone really is. We need to make these moments more frequent in order to create spaces of understanding, and ultimately, of peace.

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