Pre-Soliya reflection assignment
Before embarking on a new and invigorating experience like Soliya, it is meaningful to take some time to reflect on the abundant content we’ve covered and learned about. The topics we’ve discussed and delved into are essential pillars of emotional and social intelligence, pillars that would, if fully enacted, make the world a much better place. Some ideas we explored were the absolute opposite, but learning about them was a challenging self-reflection task, where we tried to underpin the instances where bias, oppression, othering, and so on governed our actions or thoughts; we learned to spot them and know why they should be stopped and how harmful they are to individuals and entire societies. I have learned boundlessly and grew intellectually through this journey.
For example, one of the best and “cutest” activities was creating an alt CV. I extremely enjoyed this, and it was the best representation of learning about identity that there ever could be. It made me feel in touch with the deepest aspects of my soul, with the smallest portions of my life. Many a time, I feel like my interests are limited, or my success is inadequate, or my accomplishments are ordinary; however, this assignment manifested a multifaceted, complex, diversified identity, that belongs to me. It showed me how being visually impaired was an integral part of my identity, how being a woman who appreciates her independence alongside her femininity fueled my participation in several events, how being a writer and a speaker by nature situated me in a certain environment and gave me the identity of an advocate, how my identity as a life-long learner and lover of academics branded many of my accomplishments that bring me immense pride, etcetera.
Another example is how I learned about empathy through the empathy toy, where I saw how important it is to be patient with others and communicate clearly and gently, while repeating when needed and adjusting my explanations when necessary. I empathized with every person who had a disadvantage of some sort: the blind-folded person who’s trying to keep up, the visually impaired person who’s trying to convey concepts in a comprehendible way to a sighted person, the spectators who are held back by their inability to offer unconditional help. I harbored empathy upon seeing the varying vocabularies and definitions people possess, and how this causes misunderstandings. I was able to generalize this to everyday life, realizing that people battle varying challenges with varying disadvantages and viewpoints, so it’s highly important that we all communicate concisely and be tolerant; I also linked this to equity, for providing everyone, regardless of these variabilities, with the same accommodations and circumstances isn’t enough; it is important to provide each person with the needs catered to their conditions and abilities that enable all of them to reach their particular goals.
Contrastingly, for a topic such as oppression, I learned about it comprehensively through the Legos and the 4 I’s of Oppression
Video, especially when applying the information imparted in it on the Egyptian society and the stereotypes that appear in it. The discussion I hade with you to relate every “I” to a certain example of ableism that surfaces in our society and the common sayings and reactions that come with it was very enlightening. This video and activity taught me a lot about what oppression is in a relatable context that I have not only seen but experienced first-hand. This helped clarify what every “I” stands for and how it practically occurs and spreads. Similarly, I learned about bias and othering from The Danger of a single Story video. Though making use of mostly situations in the Nigerian culture, it relayed how bias can alter the perception of groups of people so that they are rejected or seen as inferior or associated with negative traits. This can also be seen in how bias makes people demean others’ abilities and forms of development. The topic of bias was discussed in many videos and readings, and it remains one of the most important topics in this course. Single stories and biases about groups of people, and believing narratives we hear about them until they become an existent part of traditions, is something worthy of contemplation as we head for Soliya and meet many new and different people.
I don’t think I have any particular questions about these topics, partly because I studied them deeply in IB in English language and literature and TOK. However, I think I would love to keep learning about them and exploring their intricacies, especially on how they relate to us and how we can uncover their direct effects on our personalities and thought/behavior patterns. I believe I will use my Soliya experience as a form of reflection, where I will listen carefully to how people talk about themselves and others, topics that they are personally exposed to and topics that they are not, in order to further see how these topics affect others and their perceptions and ways of conversing.

The things I have learned about myself and how I view the world will define my interactions in Soliya and my opinions of the interactions I witness. Personally, I have learned a lot about how I choose to present myself, and the sectors I highlight in my personality during discussions. I have also learned about the sources I rely on when formulating opinions or personalizing a concept or idea, mainly my experiences as a visually impaired and my academic endeavors. I have also learned that the way I view the world is quite considerate, so that although I lack many experiences and have not went through many problems others have faced, I am willing to listen and accept their perspectives. I think I view the world with a lens of surprise and eagerness to learn about other systems of viewing it and making sense of its sophisticated concepts.
Sometimes, however, I question whether my choice to present myself to the world as a visually impaired individual is relatable and clear to others, and if they can understand many of the issues I face and the likes and dislikes I have in terms of interpersonal interactions? Of course, I also still have questions about my own underlying biases and prejudices, and how they might have prompted me to act unjustly towards an individual or group?
Though having profound questions, I still feel assured about interacting with others from different cultures; I expect my identity as an Egyptian, a Muslim, a visually impaired, etcetera to affect my Soliya experience. I am expecting lots of exchanges where traditions and customs are openly shared and compared; I expect that my identity as an Egyptian and a Muslim might make people inclined to act a certain way or avoid asking certain questions or hold preconceived beliefs, just like it happened to me when I first joined Clubhouse and interacted with people from all over the world.
But I especially think that my identity as a visually impaired will cause surprise and unfamiliarity amongst my group members; I also expect it to be a huge part of the perspectives I bring to the table, since it’s a unique identity facet. I will use the Soliya experience to learn more about my own biases, assumptions, and preconceived beliefs, expanding my self-knowledge; I will try to notice how I present myself, how I share my perspectives and what are they usually discussing, and how I view and think of others before and after the experience.

In terms of interactions with other people, I have learned to keep an open mind. It is important to be attentive, understand and respect differences, and listen carefully. I have also learned that curiosity (except on personal matters) is okay, as long as my questions are phrased properly and show a genuine interest to learn more and appreciate these differences and the positive and unique sides of them. I also learned to be careful not to fall in microaggressions, assumptions, generalizations, and stereotypes when interacting with others, and to eliminate any previous knowledge or beliefs I have and to replace those with what the people mention about themselves and their self-presentations in actions and words.
On the other hand, I still have questions about becoming a better global citizen, especially in regards to dealing with sensitive topics that are emotionally or racially-charged, whether pertaining to me or to the people I am interacting with? I am still unsure about the most efficient way to tackle these topics and settle disputes that arise because of them, especially that argumentativeness and strong feelings influence our behaviors and are uncontrollable sometimes? I always have questions about the ideal practices of not offending others?
I am hoping that through a hands-on experience like Soliya, I can find out practical answers for these questions by observing or partaking in certain situations. I believe that just like anything, practice makes perfect when it comes to intercultural interactions. I am hoping that I would be active and comfortable to converse and discuss and do this via technology, which will hopefully make me a good global digital citizen and enhance my ability to interact with culturally different people. This is especially that I have the roots of this skill from previous experiences on other platforms, so I will expand on this by engaging in conversations and getting to know people and giving them space to get to know me and become acquainted with my culture as I become acquainted with theirs.