I attended my first International Roundtable this year, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My International Studies professor raved about the event, saying that the the theme of migration was sure to make for a riveting group of discussions. I was required by my class to go to at least four events, but I’d like to think I would have made it to a couple even if I hadn’t been required. Maybe it was my choice of the four events to go to, but with the Roundtable over, I’m finding myself a bit disappointed.
I went to lectures on global health and female migrant workers, along with a writing workshop with Mac Slams and the poster session in Olin Rice. Even though everything I went to was very interesting, I don’t feel as though I am enlightened or significantly more educated from the experiences. I think this could be partially because of the choices I made. The Mac Slams event, while incredibly interesting, was absolutely not what I expected it to be. I couldn’t find a summary of the event online, so I assumed that we would be watching, listening to and analyzing poems about migration. The event was actually a writing workshop where I was able to put together a (somewhat crappy) poem about borders. This was an exercise which I enjoyed greatly, but I would liked to have known what to expect before I got there.
I had a similar experience with the poster session. Because this event was listed on the Roundtable schedule, I assumed most of the summer research would be internationally focused. However, most of the research was conducted in one of the scientific fields. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to find there to enrich my knowledge on migration. I listened to one really neat presentation about how Jordanian people view Americans, but all other research projects were based in something along the lines of Biology or Geology, which wasn’t relevant to the Roundtable whatsoever. Again, I wish there was a more realistic overview of what the event was going to entail so I would have known what to expect. That way, I could have chosen to instead go to events that I knew would be more relevant to the topic of migration.
The other two talks I went to were definitely closer to what I was looking for. The Global Health lecture talked about refugees from around the world and what life is like for them when they arrive in America or a similar refugee country. The Female Migrant Worker lecture, which featured some very eloquent Macalester students, was also fascinating and filled with personal anecdotes that I enjoyed considerably.
However, I don’t think that these two events really gave me an accurate overview as to what the goal of the Roundtable was, and that’s sad to me because I was excited about delving into a topic on which I had minimal knowledge. I’m not sure what could have been done differently, and I’ll be eager to talk with members of my International Studies class along with other students who attended the events to see if they had similar or contrasting opinions to mine.
I think the idea of the Roundtable is wonderful and fits perfectly with Macalester’s mission. We are a globally focused school, and the Roundtable provides an opportunity to look at issues beyond those happening on campus. Still, I left the Roundtable events feeling slightly unfulfilled. Was I supposed to draw some grand conclusion or view about international migration? Could I have gotten an idea of that sort if I had attended more events, or simply different ones? Because of this feeling, I’ll have to approach the Roundtable differently next year, and, no matter what the theme is, I hope I will leave it feeling a little more globally sophisticated than I do right now.