I submitted the above paper to be presented at a Liberal Arts conference at Jackson State University. I believe that this paper will be useful to the University of Guyana, particularly to the students and teachers.
My attendees, it is a pleasure to be here to speak to you on a theme that I feel not only passionate about but also a theme that is very close to my heart. The mere fact that I am here at Jackson State University presenting a paper to you speaks
to my confidence and vision about student and teacher international engagement beyond the classroom. I am a Guyanese who migrated from a small South American country on the Atlantic Coast (Guyana) about thirty years ago with no particular focus.
What is also interesting is that I have not abandoned my native country but do return regularly using this continuous experience to establish contact
and communication with other places in the world. I strongly believe that if I had not moved out of my country and not return on a regular basis I would not have been the right person to speak to you on the theme of my presentation: Beyond the Classroom: International Travel and Engagement.
My presentation is limited to fifteen minutes and so I will speak to you on three themes: (1) my personal experience with regard to international engagement and how this event has shaped my life. I do hope interested students in the audience may find my experience useful in pursuing their own international engagement; (2) why international engagement is important beyond the classroom not to challenge the traditional format of instruction but to explore other avenues so that the approach to education can be more pleasant and productive for both teachers and students, and so when asked, how was college, the reply should be: we had bags of fun; and (3) the benefits of international engagement in terms of promoting personal growth and development.
My attendees, I was born and raised in an insular plantation system in Guyana. I was situated on the other side of the plantation system. This is not an abstract metaphor but a specific place where I was in a specific condition in a specific social class. I was in a place where there were no colleges, no
universities, no television but I also believed at a very early age that a better life could only be achieved if I was open to new ideas, different people and explore different places from my own. I cannot pinpoint exactly where these thoughts and aspirations came from but I think two events might have contributed to them.
The first is that poverty and parochialism within my own family and community promulgated and perpetuated mainly by partisan politics instilled this feeling in me that somehow external contact would be necessary to deal with the labyrinth and lacuna of my daily struggles. In some ways, desperation and deprivation drove me to aspire to higher things in life even though there was never a clear vision and opportunity on how to achieve them. What mattered most to me then and now is the thought of progression, however small, rather than the thought of resignation.
I understand the violence of poverty and I am convinced that there is no other event in the world that has more damning, degrading and demeaning effect on humanity than the infernality of poverty, than the ruction of poverty. Yet, poverty has been the whisper of the world. Poverty is the main obstacle to human development but I also believe that thoughts supported by actions—either from the individual or from the community—can be a vehicle out of poverty. I stand before you in that tradition, the strangulation of hopes. But I am here, your university Professor. You can get to here too.
The second event that led to wider thoughts in life was the obscurity of my village community. While it may have caused the outsider to ask what young people do when they appear to do nothing, I was willing to read whatever was available to me, I paid attention to events going on in my community, and I observed that those who were going and coming in the community were the ones who were doing well. I began to realise that there was a natural connection between a better life and international exposure.
Since then, my life has not been a singular root and route but a transitional and transnational one which has ostensibly prepared me to cope with a changing and challenging world, including the environment here at Jackson State University. I have learned that one cannot truly invent traveling experiences. That would be ostentatious. Traveling experiences have to be experienced. For me, my international travel has become the narrative of my life. I cannot live without it. To be continued.