Julia El Kallassi
As a psychology student, I am very much interested in mental health and mental health awareness. I think this is important because it relates to freedom and promotes the idea of being free to be whoever you want to be. You shouldn’t let anyone stand in the way of this. So in that sense, freedom also needs acceptance.
In my first year of university, I joined the debate club at USJ. Our debates were held at the auditorium, and I loved the principles that we had to abide by. You didn’t have to agree with a position, but nevertheless, you had to defend it to the jury. In that moment, I felt free; because you free yourself from stereotypes and prejudices. You broaden your horizons as you learn to understand how others think. This requires mental flexibility. And when it comes to freedom, you cannot call yourself free without flexibility.
I believe that we should start teaching these values of flexibility and acceptance to people at a young age. So along with USJ, we started a debate championship program last year, where we invited students from different schools in Lebanon to debate by the same principles. We had 180 students attend the event and are continuing the project this year. Looking back, this gives you hope, especially when students then tell you how it motivated them and changed their perspectives on things. In the long run, it creates a snowball effect.
The idea is that change starts small. One-on-one communication never gets old, so change begins by sitting with people and talking to them, asking them for their thoughts on different issues and then brainstorming. This way, you form connections, and then create small groups and networks. I’m grateful that USJ offers such an encouraging and supportive environment for this, as well as moral and financial support to really emphasize the notions of freedom, social change, and social responsibility.