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What is the first step towards social change?

By Kelsey Bollinger.

As a student it can get overwhelming taking classes that focus on some of the world’s worst problems like poverty, starvation and health violations to name a few. So what can you do to enact positive change?

Let me start by sharing a story. As a university student I work as a study abroad advisor and as I got more experience working with students who are curious about the process of studying abroad I noticed an absence in certain participation rates. I noticed this while trying to put together some promotional items using pictures from our students who are studying abroad. The handouts I started producing were mainly white females. This got me thinking about the small steps towards social change. Social change doesn’t have to be right at the policy level, and often is fostered taking small steps.

If you work in an office like this, are in student government, clubs, or sports team then this can be some of the first steps you take towards social change!

  1. Create a more inclusive marketing technique! When your materials have pictures of a more diverse population then more types of students will want to join. In my case, when we started including more pictures of men (who are underrepresented in study abroad participation) and pictures of students doing research abroad, it created a ripple effect that attracts more people to participate.
  1. Resources, resources, resources! Who is to say you can’t make these things? Students with disabilities are not likely to study abroad. Why? Study abroad should be an endeavor everyone should go on. However, it isn’t as simple as accommodation from your home school but also that of the international school. Putting together a simple excel sheet of universities that provide disability resources for students allows students to save time doing the research. When there are guides, handouts or flyers to directly support underrepresented populations, then you are making change and providing the tools for a new social outlook and increase in whatever you are advertising. Challenge yourself to make one resource a month!
  1. Create a blog, create a following! Write a blog, make a group on Facebook or start a hashtag trend on twitter. At this point, you can use the internet as your platform for anything social change. Get a group of your friends, or if you are on student government hand out candy with the URL and get the whole school involved on conversations about social change. This could start a campaign used to fund something you care about, provide information to those who don’t have access to it, and most importantly get the fire started towards social justice.

You cannot tackle starvation, poverty or health violations in one day, it takes an army of things to create social change. You have the power to increase study abroad participation with underrepresented students like I did, or the power to put your energy in your own project. A reminder that has been proven helpful towards some students is that if humans made it, humans can break it and recreate it. That’s also true for the world. We have the power to produce change!

About Mary Anne Mendoza

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