Status: Ignored from ELS and UN
Dear L. –
My name is Luciana B. Veit, Brazilian, 37 years old, married, mother and expatriate since 1998. I have lived in five countries in 16 years and currently I reside in Beijing, China. I speak Portuguese, English, German and French fluently, have good notions in Russian and Arabic and get roughly by in Mandarin. I have directed a few theatre plays in South Korea and China, written a bunch of them, and also I have published independently three novels, a chronicles book, plus a full-length play. I manage my own website which contains entries in Portuguese and English and I currently get more than 1000 visitors per day, when most of them are granted rights without charge to perform my plays in educational establishments all over the world. Besides that, I am a devoted mother to a trilingual third culture boy, who at the moment is acquiring two additional foreign languages plus an elite education from a private school. My husband is an accomplished businessman in China and because of that I can say that we lead a quite confortable life.
You must be wondering what my point is and why you should keep reading. As a matter of fact, I guess that I am not writing to you in the first place, but to myself. Sometimes I do that: I write down some thoughts and occasionally I share them with other people. Today I must come to terms that after having being selected from the ELS / UN contest about multilinguism and being stopped in phase two, after having already sent the copy of my passport as asked, for not having a full-time student status – which I thought I had – I ask myself why is that (refer to text in French – Rôle du multilinguisme dans un monde globalisé). After reflecting long upon the matter, the only plausible explanation that I found was discrimination and not fairness, according to your final argument. Understand that I am not pointing fingers at you personally, but at organizations like the one you represent, which help stamping online students as second-class ones.
Nobody ever questions why online high education segment is growing so much worldwide. Is this because it is easy? No. It is because it is convenient and that convenience here means making it possible, struggling to juggle job and/or house duties with studies. I cannot speak for all online students, but I can speak for mature female students. You see, when I had my interview with my program director, Jayne Richards, I told her that she could be certain I would do my best simply because I am mature. Studying is what I wanted to do, and not what I had to do. I figured that despite my shining ‘business card’ (I would say the first paragraph in this text) I, like so many other women, was struggling to feel part of society. So, in my personal case, I have never had the chance to pursue high education before because I married young (willingly), because I lived like a gypsy accompanying my husband in his overseas assignments moving every three to four years, and because I felt I would be a fish out of water if I joined a regular university class with a group of 18, 19 year olds. Would this be impossible, though? Of course not. But it would make me think twice, thrice about it. Online education gives me the flexibility that I need to fill my head with positive things, other than meeting other housewives over champagne glasses, going shopping or even looking for an extramarital affair just because I would feel bored, unchallenged and empty, despite the light and joy that my son brings to my life and the company and support that my husband gives me.
Online education gave me a purpose to grow, a possibility to hold my head up high and say that I have achieved something, but then institutions like yours, among hundreds of thousands, discard online students by stamping us like second class students. I wanted to protest your decision to stop me from continuing the contest not because it was my only chance to travel to New York City. I was there before and I can travel to America any time I want. The travel was not the point. The reason why I decided to enter the contest was because it would be a great honour to me to contribute to such an important gathering where multilinguism is being discussed, far more than just vanity for having being chosen. I know the world and the impact that multilinguism has in it. Even my son, who is 12 years old, has been in more than 35 countries (while repeating several of them) already. I understand by experience the importance of multilinguism and I support it by heart. In short, I felt I had something to say, but then my tongue was ‘cut out’ from my mouth. I do have my website and the same text I sent you was already uploaded, but the honour at speaking at UN could not match ten million people browsing my website.
Today I am thinking out loud that it is at least ironical that the whole world bows to Malala Yousafzai for her praising of education, when those already studying online suffer prejudice first-hand. So, should I stop studying for my disappointment regarding this matter, ignoring my thirst for inner growth, investing in myself? Or should I rather be going shopping, having futile talks over expensive luncheons, forgetting the world’s injustices? No. I will keep studying although I know that people will continue looking down at me for my online / part-time student official status. Yes. I will continue studying although I cannot dream on participating in any contests whatsoever anymore, be it for young playwrights, or for full-time students, or anything of the sort because you consider ‘not fair’ mature students, flexible and hard-working students to mix with others. I will continue studying to prove to myself and to show to my son that I can make it, that I don’t give up and that despite the discrimination, I am proud of myself.
To conclude, this text is not only about the things that are going through my mind but certainly what is going through the minds of lots of students like me. I hope that people like you, people who actually can do something about it, will at least reflect upon the matter. This is all that I want. The world is full of rules, but these rules do not pop up from themselves, like magic – people make and change the rules and as long as there is no will to stop education discrimination, nothing will ever change. In a way, it is similar to the last line of the text in French that I sent to you: What is the meaning of multilinguism when there aren’t any good intentions behind the words? Here I ask: Where are the good intentions behind the rules?
Don’t ever underestimate an online student because we work twice as hard than a regular student because we must juggle our non-student life with the student one. While regular students party or watch television at night is when we, online students, open our books feeling tired from the day’s activities. We don’t study to kill time. We study to be the best that we can be and we should be respected for it.
Luciana B. Veit