If I could change the world I would create a program that made going abroad easier and more attractive for college-aged people.
I’m a kinesthetic learner. I have to touch, feel, and otherwise experience something before it takes up gray matter. Classes with a lecture portion and a lab never made much sense to me. Why suffer through an hour trying to remain still?
Tomorrow is lab day, and in lab you get to do something instead of hearing about things other people have done. History class was particularly painful. It was an overload of dates and names and events that meant absolutely nothing to me. It all seemed very random – until, that is, I began to travel.
While Oklahoma has a rich past of its own, it is a blip on the sonar of history and world affairs. An epiphany that stands out in my mind is my family vacation to the Northeast. The Freedom Trail — an historic walk through Boston — changed my world. Suddenly, all the dreary speeches on the Revolution were cast into a sharp light.
History was only a part of the trip. I also got to live in a Northern harbor city for a few days, a culture vastly different from my suburban plains. Traveling gave me the chance to see, touch, and experience everything I’d learned about in a way that meant something to me.
The road trips of my youth were contained to the United States. Think of all the culture and history I could absorb abroad! The youth of America is often harangued for their ignorance in foreign affairs. Our being content to never venture beyond Canada and Mexico is contemptible.
The world is shrinking; today there are few transactions that aren’t international. Do you only see the “Made in China” sticker or do you wonder what life is like in a country that can mass-produce almost anything? “Laissez-Faire” isn’t just some economic theory – its French! Do you know what it really means? It’s time we, as the new generation of young adults, thought about what else (and who else) is out there.
There are various excuses for not taking the opportunity for going abroad. Money, however, is the only legitimate reason for not immediately hopping on a plane during your college years. Early 20s is synonymous with broke. Mom and Dad don’t want you to starve, but they aren’t ready to dish out the cash to fly you to Spain next week. The part-time department store job pays for your gas money – and that’s it.
Financial aid is provided for education all the time. Going abroad is simply on-location education. Philanthropy and community outreach programs are expected of large corporations and the independently wealthy. By financing a student’s time abroad, they are also investing in the future of their company and consumers. They sponsor a student who comes home an informed citizen of the world. The students would be expected to present the findings of their exploration to their benefactor. The company could learn valuable international information from their student.
Passports and visas are tricky to obtain, too. From convincing Mom to hand over the birth certificate for the afternoon to taking the perfect passport picture, potential globe trekkers are frightened off before they turn in their application. I’m going to change the world, though. I’m going to implement an expedited student visa and passport service. Students would be processed in a separate office specifically set up to make education abroad more accessible. That way the students could get out faster without delaying travel for others.
The culture shock of uprooting yourself from a place all too familiar to a land far, far away is a reality of traveling alone. Students often shy away from experiences abroad because they are afraid they won’t be able to function where their language isn’t spoken.
What they need to help with the reality check (because they aren’t all just like us) is a guide. They need someone just as interested in learning about the student’s culture as they are teaching others about theirs.
Students would be paired with a native citizen of the country. Once a week or more, they would get together to explore. History, politics, food, amusements, school, and anything else they are interested in would be entertained. That way both participants gain something from each other’s company. When in France, one weekly outing could be spent at the Louvre admiring centuries of artistic inspiration, and the next at a discotheque soaking in the local nightlife.
The number one resistance to taking the time to travel is giving up a semester of school to do so. Education of any kind is expensive, and students are reluctant to drag it out any longer than is necessary. Luckily, the Internet can save the anxious mind from entering the work force a semester later than planned. With e-mail, instant messaging, and live video chat, it’s a wonder more classes aren’t concurrent.
Time to regularly read from the textbook, a few scantrons, and a number two pencil are all that is necessary to pass the average college course. In a partnership with the university, if the student wishes, they may continue their course work while overseas. Classes would be specifically developed to be taken by students abroad. Online quizzes and exams would yield automated progress reports. A teacher would still be available by e-mail for questions and concerns.
Travel is so important to understanding our world. There are so many conflicts started by misunderstandings and a lack of tolerance for others. No way of life must be better or worse, but essentially people are different and it takes some interaction to fully realize this.
Changing the world is more than telling everyone to behave. No change for the future can occur until everyone understands what is happening right now. To change the world, there must be a change in perspective. To understand the current situation in other countries, you’ll have to live it.Powered by Sidelines