Written by Noah Goldblatt, Director of Study Abroad, Champlain College
This blog post was inspired by the legacy of Connor Glasset. May he continue to impact the world in a positive way.
Otherness and difference are challenging to many Americans. From the perspective of Social Psychology, we have built-in mechanisms to understand the world based on our own cultural norms and traditions. With that, using our home culture as a yardstick to measure others may even be hardwired into our consciousness. Studying abroad and exchange opportunities allow both domestic and foreign students to experience culture from a completely new perspective thus breaking down assumptions and helping to understand the world in a new light. Studying abroad and exchanging create an environment where the transformation of the heart and mind is possible.
International education provides a platform for students to develop their cross-cultural understanding and learn practical international skills that will help provide tools for success in the 21st-century economy. The globe has become increasingly interdependent on many levels, and shutting America off from the world will not prove a panacea for prosperity.
For several decades, American foreign policy has welcomed cultural exchange even with countries that are perceived as enemies. Sharing our own passions and values with those who do not share our ideology allows for a space of understanding and growth. American students who study abroad carry home a new framework in which to view the world. Exchange students who spend time in the US can bring their countries a story of America that is not prevalent in their local media outlets. As international educators, we are on the front lines of facilitating both inbound and outbound cultural exchange. Now, more than ever, it feels like we need to promote international education as a pathway to a better and more inclusive future for all.
Champlain College was just ranked #12 in the country for the percentage of students studying abroad in the Open Doors Report released by the Institute of International Education (IIE). While attending the November 2016 CIEE Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA this week, it became clear that our current political climate is an opportunity to share what we do as international educators.