In the ninth grade, I had an AP Human Geography teacher that as a year-long assignment required his classes to learn to recognizably draw a map of the world, identify the location of all the countries and be able to place any number of major physical features in the appropriate location on our map.
He even taught us pick-up lines to use on people that involved drawing the map. (For example, go up to a stranger and draw map on napkin. Revolve napkin around stranger’s body, and say “baby, my world revolves around you.”)
I got five extra credit points on my grade that spring for using a map pick-up line on a cute boy over spring break and getting the whole embarrassing debacle on film. (No, I did not get his number.)
It was an insane sounding proposal at the time, but by the end of the year, most of the class was really good at it. The class also taught us to chart linguistic dispersion across the world and stressed understanding the culture of the many countries of the world that I otherwise would have never even realized existed.
The other day, I told the story about my once-famed map-drawing skills to a friend. They, of course, wanted to see proof. I started sketching, only to discover that I couldn’t do it anymore. The Americas looked decent, but Europe, Asia and the Middle East were a mess. The only continent I could draw with any accuracy was Africa, which to be completely honest isn’t a very impressive skill at all.
Discovering my loss of map skills ended up being a surprisingly rough blow. I have since found myself sketching the world on my notes during class and trying without avail to remember the countries of Africa. I have lost a skill that I was proud of once upon a time.
While the usefulness of map-drawing skills in my dating life is doubtful, knowing where all the countries of the world were located and the culture within them proved to be a spark of my interest in the world at large. As a freshman in high school, I felt connected to the rest of the world.
For the first time, no matter where news was happening, it seemed relevant to my life. After all, I now could not only place a country on a map, but I also knew the main linguistic and cultural influences of the area.
This fascination with the rest of the world shaped much of my high school experience and led to my choice of international affairs in college. When I came to Tech, I was sure I was going to learn even more about the world at large and become a well-informed citizen of the world.
In some ways this happened. I became heavily involved with an international organization that keeps me connected to the rest of the world, and my classes emphasize all sorts of aspects of international politics and foreign relations.
However, like most, I find myself often bogged down by daily life within our Tech bubble. I barely can keep up with the seemingly endless readings for my classes, much less take the time to read up on international news online.
Upon realizing that I could no longer tell you where in Africa Niger is located nor what all the countries that touch Russia are, I also realized that I have stopped keeping up with world events as well as I would like.
To be an active member of society, you must be informed about not only the things that happen within your small sphere of activity, but also the greater world around you.
The political turmoil in Honduras right now or the bombs in Pakistan may not seem to affect your life right now, but they could be events that shape the world we will be living in and working in for the next few years.
While as students we often feel immune from everything going on outside of the Tech community, in a few years we will be the people responsible for making sustainable business decisions in order to deal with global warming caused by things happening around the world right now and mitigating political conflict rooted in the issues we are watching develop in the news right now.
Sure, many of us may not go on to have jobs that directly work toward international policy, but I think any Tech student aims to make an impact on the world, and that requires being a global citizen.
So while I am going to just have to let my days of map-drawing stay in my past, I am going to make an effort to stay informed and be an active global citizen while at Tech.