At the beginning of the course, the Soliya reflection was not something I was looking forward to. As it dawned nearer, and I learnt that it would be two hours in a forced and moderated discussion with people I had never met, I was even more apprehensive. It was the first time I was a part of a cross cultural dialogue that was online, however living in various places around the world, I felt as though I was prepared for what would be discussed and I considered myself a very cultural person.
My first thought on the program itself is that it was a very new and innovative system of discussion. It created a dialogue with people who would never meet under ordinary circumstances, but they had the chance to talk about many topics. I did enjoy the entirety of the Soliya experience even though I am not sure if I learnt anything new. I did however feel for the first time that I related more with the European students rather than the students from my own region. This I think is the idea that we have discussed at length in class, which is the idea of privilege. I did not think that I would feel more privileged than others in the dialogue, but for some conversing in English was difficult and the internet was very spotty in some regions. This made me very thankful for the life I’m living and opened my eyes to some struggles that others face. The Soliya program attempts to offer equity by having the many features that allow you and others to talk, however it does not achieve it due to the fact that not all participants have the same access to internet connection and language.
One of the most interesting topics in my opinion was when we discussed stereotypes we had of other cultures, I was expecting people to only bring up the pyramids or the pharaohs – which don’t get me wrong were a common stereotype – but they also mentioned the Arab spring. Another aspect that surprised me was the fact that I expected more Arab unity, however when discussing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict I found that the other Arabs in the group held a grudge against Egypt and Egyptians due to the fact that Egypt was the first country in the Arab world to recognize Israel.
I honestly do not feel as though I benefitted much – if at all – from the Soliya experience due to the fact that I did have a lot of cross-cultural exposure from before the Soliya experience. In my opinion based on the three dimensions highlighted by King & Baxter Magolda (cognitive, intrapersonal, interpersonal) my level of maturity for all three would definitely have to be mature. I have to credit that to travelling often, my education and learning to adapt to certain situations and people quickly and swiftly. Honestly I believe that even though Soliya can be a very beneficial digital literacy tool, this course has taught me much more than it did and it cannot be a substitute for real life dialogue.