Travel Log #10: “Encountering Globalization” By Madeleine Harder. Brussels, BE

Here is a photo of me in Paris. I went for a weekend with a friend and we both agreed that we must go to the Shakespeare and Company store to pick up a classic book in English. When we went to the store it was snowing outside so we decided to sit in the reading room with our new purchases and a hot cup of coffee. The next thing we knew we were in a heated literary debate with two university students from Germany. Our points of view had been shaped by our educational systems and while I completely disagreed with how the two German's interpretations, we were having a dialogue. To me this is the perfect example of spreading globalization as a study abroad student.

Here is a photo of me in Paris (if you look really closely you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background). I went for a weekend with a friend and we both agreed that we must go to the Shakespeare and Company store to pick up a classic book in English. As we arrived at the store it began to snow outside so we decided to sit in the reading room with our new purchases and a hot cup of coffee. The next thing we knew we were in a heated literary debate with two university students from Germany. Our points of view had been shaped by our educational systems and while I completely disagreed with the two German’s interpretations, we were having a dialogue. To me this is the perfect example of spreading globalization as a study abroad student.

As an international business minor I am very aware of globalization, I can hardly go one class without that term being mentioned, in fact. The technical definition of globalization is the shift toward a more interdependent and interconnected world. As a study abroad student I am spreading my ideas and point of view to everyone I come into contact with in my host culture. At the same time, I am absorbing new ideas from people with a different background than my own.

A ubiquitous example of globalization is McDonald’s. What started out as an American fast food joint is now present in more than 100 countries (for reference, the UN recognizes around 120 states as official countries). You can hardly travel to any country without seeing a McDonald’s. For me it’s a sense of comfort, they offer free wifi and cheap food. When I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark for the first time I was awestruck by how many 7/11’s they had. You honestly couldn’t walk 100 feet without seeing one. This is the corporate side of globalization. Companies are being based in one country originally and then moving their operations overseas. Opening up your business in a different market allows for cheaper production costs, and therefore a fatter bottom-line.

These are generally positive examples of globalization— promoting understanding and bringing goods. However, globalization has its downsides as well. This can be witnessed in the case of Zambia. Developmentally, this state is very far behind that of the global north and with the total debt that they are in, it will be very hard (if not impossible) for them to fully develop in the future. The International Monetary Fund’s involvement in Zambia was mentioned in the video and I completely agree with the conclusions that were reached by all of the commentators. The IMF is intended for good but in my opinion actually hinders progress in third world states. In order to accept money from the IMF, the recipient is forced to restructure their government. The IMF poses the restructuring of the government without any real regards to the specific circumstances of each state. General solutions are applied and they rarely work. In very few cases will this pay off in the short term, leading the global south to continue living in poverty. In Zambia’s case it won’t work in the long term either because children are dropping out of school to care for sick relatives and put food on the table. This does not create sustainable growth and Zambia will be in the exact same position that it is now unless the people are invested in.

As a class we agreed that the global community was a shared living space but the way things are right now, we are not sharing. The concept of economic colonialism was mentioned and it’s really a way that one half of the global community (the North) is controlling the other half of the population (the South). The global south has no say in what is happening on their land or in regards to their future. The idea of a global community to me is just that. It’s a utopia of sorts. The further I go in my education the more I become aware of these inequalities and it is going to require very innovative solutions to fix. We see Africa as not having anything to offer us and this is a terrible mentality. People live in Africa and people live in Europe and North America, this is what we should be focusing on instead of what profit we can turn from them.

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