Beyond the Classroom: International Travel and Engagement – Part 2

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Last week, I addressed the first objective of my paper which is my personal experience with regard to international engagement with the expectation that students may find it useful in pursuing their own international engagement. In this column, I will discuss my other two objectives: why international engagement is important beyond the classroom and the benefits of international engagement in promoting personal growth and development.lomarsh
I sincerely urge this audience, particularly the students, especially those who have ventured out of their rural community for the first time to treat destitution, degradation and deprivation as a determination and motivation to greater achievement. You have made the first step towards that direction by the mere fact that you are here at Jackson State University. You should be proud of this direction. But you must now use this opportunity to build bridges rather than barriers to other opportunities, including the exposure to places beyond your own comfort zones.
I urge you not to forget your past. It is probably your coveted possession. It is probably your only possession. It is probably your only privacy. But I would like to reassure you that certain aspects of your only possession, your insular past can only be a progressive past when a certain level of prosperity is accomplished through the willingness to engage in programmes and places beyond the confines and concentric boundaries of this campus and community.
You may ask why. I ask why not. The world has certainly become a shrinking place through the forces and facets of globalisation. Distant and different communities are now closely connected through the digital world. In some ways, borders between countries are now less realistic and more imaginative.
While I do understand some disadvantages so associated with an ever-rapidly integrated globe, the earthshaking changes around us cannot be avoided. Educators, teachers and students have little or no choice but to take advantage of this omnipresent global trend. To do otherwise would simply be counterproductive to growth and development. We have to become global citizens in order to compete and do well. We must not only become a member of the established academic family of institutions, but we must also belong to the established institutions of the academic family. International travel and international exposure is one way to achieve this endeavour.
I endorse the approach that teaching cannot be restricted to a classroom setting. Travelling and interacting with other cultures is valuable to personal enrichment as well as family and community fulfilment and development. The argument that exposing students and educators beyond the classroom is too expensive is risible since ignorance of the world is more expensive.
My attendees, I would like to inform you in no casual terms that the benefits of travelling are enormous. Studies after studies have shown immersion and interaction with another culture even occasionally enhances and expands the mind, erases stereotypes, helps to deal with culture shock and provides first-hand experiences rather than relying solely on textbooks and in-class instructions. To be sure, there is a difference and distinction between vacation and travel, the former is escape, while the latter is immersion and interaction. Nonetheless, when these two events are combined, the benefits to the individual mind are incalculable.
Undoubtedly, international exchanges and experiences sharpen students’ awareness, foster independence, strengthen leadership skills, promote courage and mould good citizenship. Research has demonstrated that students who engage in international travel tend to have high grades, do better at job interviews and in challenging situations. Students who engage in international travel tend to be good ambassadors for their school, community and themselves.
International travel will certainly take students to majestic places but also to submerged places of world. I am convinced that students as well as teachers learn more when information is taught in relation to real-life situations when information is localised and when active participation is encouraged.
I am also convinced that life whether as a student or a teacher is a continuing learning process. In this regard, it is important to provide students and teachers with the tools necessary such as international travel and exposure so that they can transfer their skills into the workplace and to answer their own questions when they finish college. I think that these are the major differences between being taught and being educated. (Send comments to lomarsh.roopnarine@jsums.edu).