As one year draws to a close, and a new one springs into existence, most of us will naturally be turning our thoughts to the coming year. Unfortunately, if 2016 is anything to go by, many of us will not be looking forward to that future with much confidence.
There is little doubt that 2016 was a truly awful year on the world stage. A string of Isis-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe has left the continent fearful and on edge, the spectre of famine still stalks several places in Africa, and who can forget the image of the 5-year old Syrian boy, blooded and confused, sitting in the back of an ambulance after being rescued from an air strike on Aleppo?
This volatility on the world stage, I believe, is leading people to turn in on themselves. If you were of a liberal inclination, you would have looked on in horror at the election of the petulant Mr Trump as the 45th President of the United States – the man who wants to build walls to protect his country from outsiders. He is not the only one who wants to pull up the drawbridge either. Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands both lead political parties riding a tide of anti-migrant sentiment in Europe. Not to mention the Brexit vote in the UK, which saw many people wanting to cut ties with a wider Europe.
Turning away and turning inwards. As we enter a very uncertain 2017, everyone is doing it. Turning away from globalisation, and turning away from the idea of societies open to outsiders.
Or perhaps it just appears that way. Despite the difficult global situation, there are many places around the world that are still resolutely internationalist in outlook.
Take Oxford, for example. Oxford has always been a global city, its ancient university sitting at the centre of a vast web of worldwide connections.
Here at OISE Oxford, we feel very proud to be part of this inclusive city. Every year, we welcome students from all over the world – from Japan to Senegal, from Germany to Thailand, from the Arabic speaking world to the Chinese one. Not only are we a place to learn English, but we are also a forum where people can swap ideas and experiences from across the globe. This is particularly true in our critical analysis workshops, in which we focus on the issues that we all share in common, such as climate change or intercultural relations.
Our classroom windows offer lovely views of Oxford’s old High Street, but we like to think they are also windows on the wider world. Join us, and you will be looking through them.Simon Wilcox is a tutor at OISE with a background in journalism. Holding a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism, Simon has reported for the BBC in England and a major broadcaster in Singapore. He has also worked for newspapers and magazines, and as a website editor for a London-based NGO.