At university, there always seems to be somebody or entity complaining about something, whether it’s student activist societies, student led forums for discussing teaching issues or just individuals wanting to get more for their money or a higher coursework mark. These issues all seem very important when you’re in university and I myself have fallen into the university bubble that enveloped and consumed me when I received a low mark for a piece of coursework, bringing down my average dramatically and increasing the pressure for me to do well in other assessments. However, these past few weeks, I’ve been preparing for my Spanish oral exam which will be next week, and the task is to prepare presentations on five topics. Today I’m going to write about my Spanish oral topics and why these issues matter so much more in the grand scheme of things, over exam stress.
Poverty in the world
I’ve chosen to speak about food poverty in the UK as the amount of people relying on food banks in the UK is dramatically rising. My presentation is based on a paper produced by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust, called Below the breadline: The relentless rise of food poverty in Britain. It gives testimonies of those living in food poverty (when people don’t have the ability to afford food for a healthy diet) and reports figures about unequal wealth distribution in the UK and food banks. It’s a really interesting report that highlights an issue many of us never consider as being a problem. Although some of us donate to food banks, the food accepted by charities is tinned, long-lasting foods such as pasta, tuna, rice and cereals. Fresh fruit and vegetables are never accepted and as many fruits and veg are imported from other countries, people living in food poverty can’t afford it and their diet is affected by this.
Globalization is the exchange of products, ideas or cultural aspects between countries and I have decided to look at the new trend in China for European finishing schools. Based on an article Western manners: The latest Chinese status symbol, in this presentation I look at how a Chinese woman, who attended an etiquette school in Switzerland has opened one in Beijing, offering courses on peeling fruit with cutlery and posing with elegance. What shocks me most about this isn’t the ridiculous prices of the school and the founder’s ambition for it to be accessible to all Chinese people, it’s the fact that Chinese people are prepared to study the customs and etiquette which derived in Switzerland. Funny enough, in Switzerland, due to the rise in feminism and changing views on gender roles, these schools are actually shutting down because they’re deemed old-fashioned.
Keeping to the China theme, I have been reading about Chinese death-row prisoners and executions. More specifically, China has a number of specially built Mobile ‘death vans’ which they use to execute prisoners in, via lethal injection. After this process is finished, doctors extract the organs from the prisoners (without permission) and sell them through hospitals. I have read other information about organ harvesting in China which is chilling, to say the least.
Studying these, amongst other, topics over the past few weeks has been eye-opening, shocking and distressing in some cases where I read more than I should have. However, the task has helped me to prioritise the issues in my life and appreciate the life I lead. I’m all for student activism, as many campaigns run do get listened to, but it puts complaining about a grade and worrying about an exam into perspective as I now know that hundreds of thousands on children in my country are going hungry each day and some corrupt Chinese officers are unjustly sentencing people to death as a means to obtain organs, which are of high demand in a country where there is no mentality or history of voluntary organ donation.