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Editorial: Worldwide Educations

Sept. 25, 1996


Worldwide education

Valuable lessons await students who travel abroad for education

The issue:

The University offers many study-abroad programs that integrate the student into a country's culture.

Our view:

Education is a global process, and the college years are one of the best times to learn about life around the globe.

'Come my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world...' wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem 'Ulysses.' For the ancient explorer sailing the unchartered seas, it was a challenge to a crew trepidatious of what might be at the end of the flattened sphere.

Today such challenges exist, especially at this University, where study-abroad programs seek to cultivate students into Ulysses and travel a nonflattened, albeit increasingly small, global sphere.

The experience is one that is world-changing. In today's world, instantaneous news coverage brings U.S. Marines landing in the dead of night on the shores of Somalia into households in the bright daylight hours in the United States. Revolutions and coups affect not only ethnic and political minorities in the warring country but the whole world, whether it be through trade or commerce.

Whereas culture to most Americans is the now-universal Golden Arches with its Quarter Pounder (or make that a Royale with cheese in France) in every town and city of every time zone, franchising, telecommunication and advertising have not yet destroyed every facet of local foreign culture. Dr. James Vardaman, director for international programs, said education is global and the best way to experience this is to participate in a program that brings the student the globe.

In a sense, the world is bigger than a classroom or the books from which one learns. Travel in Europe, Africa or 'the cradle of civilization' may provide students with an expanded sense of history that is not possible in the United States. The past pervades the landscape as lichens its cobblestone walls in a continuous state of reconciliation with the present.

But not every message of enculturation garnered abroad is a positive one. In France, once the stomping grounds of Romans, the student finds a countryside littered with amphitheaters and coliseums. Not to escape an old habit, modern French cities are brimming with ads for Dockers, entire train stations full of Nike swooshes and a selection of well-dubbed Hollywood films. The over-run of the world have changed their involuntary allegiance over the course of 2,000 years from an empire founded on steel and an ever-burgeoning pantheon of captured gods to one founded simply on bullets and tennis shoes.

What you will find draws a modern parallel to Hellenization but at a cheap, commercial and culturally ungratifying level. Realize that you are a citizen of what is for the moment the dominant empire of the 20th century, the leading country of the G-7, and that the way you and everyone you know lives will affect the entire world for better or worse.

College presents you with an opportunity to play ambassador for a few weeks or months in another country, not in a bureaucrat's chamber but a household. If, perchance, you run into a few America-haters, show a little grace and try to understand, at least for a minute, the reasoning behind their position.

Many lessons await you in countries throughout the world in which the University hosts a variety of study programs. As each study and need is different, so are the programs and the lessons learned. Quite simply, to study abroad, out of the comfort zone of all that is familiar and in English, is something to take advantage of while at school. Now is the best time to apply study to life.

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