One of the things I’ve always been proud of is our community and university’s diversity. We’ve managed to attract eager students from around the world to our joint benefit. Interacting with people who have been raised in different circumstances than your own is part of what makes an undergraduate experience so foundational and maturing. And that’s what studying abroad is all about.
A lot of people seem to find the idea appealing but fail to commit to the actual event. It’s hard to blame them, it certainly is a commitment. But we must realize that in an increasingly and obviously globalized society, in order to lead and honor those around us, we must seek to understand and appreciate others trying to do the same in their respective cultures. I’m sure the IU School of Global and International Studies, where I study, will soon trot out a fancy slogan to the same effect because it is true.
Experiencing new cultures is the first step towards expanding the marketplace of ideas, dreams, and the opportunity to fulfill those dreams, that which has made the United States so exceptional. Our nation and the ideals it represents has been built upon this exchange that has sparked so many imaginations into the kinds of new processes and ideas read about in textbooks and used as motivation and validation for generations to come.
Diversity isn’t only a nice thing to have, it is a necessity if you want to remain competitive into the 21st century. It helps us to unlock a whole other way to look at a problem, a new perspective laden with its own nuanced history and influencers going back thousands of years. Innovation is the product of diversity.
Nothing has made me prouder to be an American than my experiences studying abroad. The United States is rightfully proud of its history of people who love this country using their experiences in other cultures to widen our perspectives and to make us work better. We are proud of our personal and community roots, it is these that bind us together and form the basis of who we are at our core. The United States is the world superpower that it is because of this interaction between different cultures and points of views brought to the table as a result of the pursuit of the very real American Dream.
Brazil is a country that lacks the social and economic mobility that we cherish and, often, take for granted. And though we have a long way to go to combat the various “isms” that prevent an even playing field, I believe that it is the ideals that we fight for in fields of battle and tables of discussion that make us extraordinary. I will always be proud to be a Midwestern boy at heart, and experiencing other cultures does not distract from this. Instead it opens my eyes to realities I could not have known and at the same time allows me to share the perspective that I uniquely have.
Study abroad is more than a semester you take off of school to go drink in another country. It is about improving yourself through this marketplace of ideas so that you can then go on to improve the communities that you care about, at home and abroad. It is about coming together in order to understand what creates the depth beneath the skin of all men, and how we can continue to form brotherhood that connects to and appreciates each man’s depth. We come together during our undergraduate years whilst under the guidance of many of these in the form of professors, those who accumulate immense knowledge in some subject matter and share this knowledge, its place in the world, and, hopefully, how to reach your own understanding.
Many people fail to realize that such guidance can come from simply placing yourself, your senses and analysis in a new culture and lifestyle. When you study abroad, most of your education isn’t in the classroom, it’s in the community.