My family never traveled much when I was a boy. Aside from an annual summer drive to Lake Tahoe and a trip to Disneyland when I was 8 (and that seemed like a trek across the globe), we didn’t venture far from home. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and stepped on a plane for the first time for a trip to Europe that I had my first iron-clad proof that there was a whole world out there—a world of people, places, customs, traditions, and differences that all at once came to life and showed me that my little part of the world was just that—little.
What’s curious about this, at least for me, is that I was no different from my extended family and friends in that none of us traveled, none of us went anywhere (to speak of), and as a result, none of us had a grasp of what the rest of the world was really like. Sure, we’d see reports on the news of wars, natural disasters, and politics. But, really it was all so—foreign. How things have changed. Today, people travel all over the world as routinely as I used to go to Lake Tahoe. And, as the world has become less foreign and more familiar, this has translated to an educational bonanza for students, many of whom have the opportunity to go on study, service, or immersion trips abroad starting in high school.
At USF, education is not limited to the walls of the classrooms or even the boundaries of San Francisco, what we fondly refer to as our extended classroom. As our cover story on page 24 relates, our students have educational opportunities all over the globe.
“That’s nice,” you might say, unimpressed. So the students get to go to different places. How does that enhance their education? What do they really learn? As our story describes, there are many benefits not just in sending our students to Belize, Peru, China, South Korea, Hungary, and dozens of other countries, but in also attracting students and faculty from abroad who bring to USF life experiences and perspectives that our students would otherwise not encounter. Sometimes, it’s those perspectives themselves that add an extra dimension to education. It’s not just knowing that there are cultural differences and norms amongst us, it’s knowing what those differences are and why they exist that lends an extra element of knowledge that can’t be gleaned from books alone.
It’s like never looking at something the same way because you know the back story, you know the customs and perspectives that others are bringing into the discussion. It all helps to better inform and better educate us so that as the world becomes smaller in a geographic sense, we all come closer together as a global community.
Summer 2011, Vol. 18, No. 1
© 2011 University of San Francisco
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