Why Do You Love Your Country? : Dreams, Education and South Africa


Hello, I am settling back into life at home in Ireland. At first I found it very strange to be home, I was so used to being away that being in such a familar place was almost alienating. Having had so many different cultures and languages within my reach while living in mainland Europe it certainly was a change to be immersed in my own once more. In saying that I am more than delighted to be reunited with all of my friends at university. This reunion got me thinking however of all the amazing friends I have dotted all over the world, some whose countries I have never been close to visiting due to geographical difference.

I have so many strong, beautiful and intelligent international female friends and they inspire me all the time to learn more, to strive to travel more and to open my eyes to new cultures, languages and experiences. So I wanted to show their stories to you, their words, their experiences of their own countries so that you could get a glimpse into why I love these very talented girls so much. I hope you enjoy!

Kiersten, 20, America

America is not a perfect country, no country is, for that matter. You can find the flaws in America in almost any online news article, or by turning on the television. I’d be blind not to see it. Having said that, I honestly don’t think I’d want to be from anywhere else. What I love most about America is the inherent optimism we all have in our hearts, and the general belief that if you want something, you can make it happen through hard work and determination. People here genuinely believe that when your mind is put to your goals, those goals are entirely within our reach, and I think that’s something special. Some may call it a blind hope, but I truly believe that having faith in yourself to accomplish something is a huge part in, if not the biggest part of, getting to where you hope to be. Living right outside of New York City, I’ve always felt that the world was in my palms. And, no matter where in the country you are, you can find a smile in a stranger, and a story from them that could impact your life. So, to close, I would definitely say that the hope and optimism of the American people is what I love most about my home.

Liza, 23, The Netherlands

My small country is known for a few things, its capital city where you can enjoy all things your mother ever forbid you to do, bikes, cheese, windmills, wooden shoes, water management and the lack of a national identity. We do have our own holidays (that only outrage non-natives) and we do have a certain air around us (which basically means we combine rudeness, but honest no-nonsense sarcastic rudeness, with gezelligheid). But there is not a strong nationalistic connection. I might be half an exception to that. I think in my family you have to almost go back to B.C. to find an ancestor not from the flat lands and I have hated that for most of my life. But on the other hand never NEVER insult the Netherlands or any of our traditions in front of me, because I will turn in to a giant orange lioness jumping on my bike while singing the Wilhelmus ready to prove you wrong with debate, democracy and compromises. Figuratively of course, because ‘doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’*. *’Just act normal, that’s crazy enough’. The feeling we all carry in our cold, sober, Calvinistic hearts.

Marianne 19, France

Hi, I’m Marianne, I’m 19 and I come from France. More precisely I do English in Brest, which is a city in Brittany (North-west of France). I was asked to explain what I like about my country. I have never asked myself that question, I usually admire other countries and find positive points that France doesn’t have. But I sat down and thought about what the positive points of my country were. I came up with numerous answers. Firstly, our language. French is a rich and complex language that even French people can’t master so I get it when my foreign friends tell me that it is hard for them to learn French. Also, I want to make a point about Breton, which is the language that our grandparents and great-grandparents used to speak. For example, just like in Ireland with Gaelic, on our signs in the streets, there are always the directions in French and in Breton. I think it’s quite unique and that’s a part of our heritage. Speaking of heritage, I quite like the fact that my region is part of the Celtic world, which gives us a certain heritage and past. I also love my country because we can find amazing people in it, as we can find some in all countries. I made some amazing friends. French food is not always amazing but there are some dishes... You would FALL. For example, the raclette. Trust me it’s amazing and you have to try it at least once in your life. I also appreciate the fact that we have one of the most beautiful cities as our capital: Paris. You want to visit it once in your life just because of all the things you can do. The architecture is wonderful, just have a look at the Louvre Museum and the Chateau de Versailles, you’ll be amazed.
There are certainly many things that I forgot to mention but here are the ideas that I came up with to answer this question of what I like about my country.

Tine, 21, Belgium

I think asking a Belgian why they are proud to be Belgian is one of the hardest questions to ask. Belgians can be very realistic, sometimes even a bit pessimistic about their importance to the world.
Although it feels in a way “unbelgian” to be too positive about Belgium, I think we have to admit that it’s a great country to live in. We have a pretty well-organised social safety net and health care, as far as I know, we’ve never faced any natural disasters and our political system is so complicated that any changes are gradual evolutions rather than drastic rearrangements.
I have my country to thank for many great aspects of my life. Belgium is not perfect, but in terms of tolerance, justice and freedom, it’s probably as good as a country gets in this day and age. You can legally practice any religion in Belgium. Growing up, racism and homophobia were things that I only came in contact with on TV. Education is cheap and accessible to anyone regardless of gender, religion or origin. I am proud of how far Belgium has come and I hope to see it remain progressive and safe for everyone, even in troubled times.

Ayesha, 18, South Africa

Whenever people ask me about where I come from and what it’s like, I always find myself battling to describe and explain Cape Town, South Africa. While I grew up in the best comfort and have basked in the fruits of wealth, none of it came easy to my family. None of it was given, all of it was fought for through systematic oppression and segregation that we know today as Apartheid South Africa. So as a Coloured-Indian Muslim girl, explaining what the Colony of Cape Town is like is difficult. Cape Town is the hub of art, music, expression and holiday-making in this country. But it reeks of gentrification and racism. I suppose that even with this, Cape Town has and always will he home and I have my community to thank for that. The Cape Malay / Cape Coloured community in Cape Town specifically are a fluid, complex community. We come from different places, we live different experiences, but it ultimately that mutual understanding of ‘us’ and shared culturual experiences has created an identity for us as a people here. From barakatjies (food parcels distributed by neighbours to neighbours) in Ramadan, to Wembley Roadhouse, Aneesa’s and Golden Dish being home for us. And those are just simple examples of this shared love for food. Post-Apartheid-Apartheid South Africa is a home I have a love-hate relationship with. The natural beauty of this country is undeniable;  the oceans, the deserts, the beaches, the mountains and the forests. But what truly makes me happy to live in this country, something that I love most about South Africa, are my people; specifically the Black and PoC Millenials. My peers at University who are fighting interdicts and arrests and expelsion for protesting for Free, Decolonial Education. Our local celebrities who celebrate us and fight with us as the youth of this country to reclaim our rights. Our parents who support us and stand side-by-side with us. While I hate the fact that we are even fighting battles like this, I am filled with pride to know that I come from and with a people that refuse to be apolitical nor ahistorical. In a time where action is necessary, where justice is being forcefully served and where people’s rights are being trampled on, I find it incredibly important to have youth who are active citizens. In every way. And that’s what South African youth have become. So yes, I love our landscapes, our wildlife is incredible, the Flora in this country is beyond beautiful, the art, the music, the soap operas, the food and the joy of South Africa are all things that I love. But again, what truly, truly, truly makes me happy about this place, is that it has birthed a generation of mindful, thoughtful, ambitious and incredible young people who will do any and everything to ensure a sustainable, safe world for us all. 

Eilís 21, Ireland

As for myself and my country? If you are familiar with this blog you'll know already how much I love my small green little country. I can't understand why I could have ever been bored with it in the past, having been away for so long from it. Everything about it is beautiful, from the variety in the accents up and down the country, the wild, rugged and magical landscape of the West of Ireland to the lyrical and mesmerising Irish language. My country's history has shaped me to be the person I am, fiercely proud of my ancestor's actions to protect our lands from British rule, my pride when our people support our country in sport, entertainment and science all over the world. We may be from a small country, but our achievements are certainly not tiny. I always say to people, I will die in Ireland. No matter how far I go, no matter who I meet or which countries I fall in love with, my heart will always belong to a little island on the farthest edge of Europe, battered by the Atlantic Ocean.

Thank you so much for reading this one, getting all the pieces of writing was tedious but so so worth it in the end. Thanks so much to the girls for the time and effort to write such emotional and interesting pieces.

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