Nov 15, 2010
Celebrating International Education Week: In Their Own Words
posted under NEWS STORY
Participating in celebration of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, this week the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is bringing you a special series of stories, “In Their Own Words.” Highlighting accounts from CCCU students and administrators, we celebrate CCCU campuses’ rich history of international cultural and academic exchange and the ways this exchange grows students as better equipped professionals who are agents of God’s kingdom around the world.
Throughout this week we will hear from and profile members of the CCCU’s Student Academic Programs Commission, which oversees the CCCU’s BestSemester culture-crossing and culture-shaping study programs; directors of the culture-crossing BestSemester programs; CCCU students who have participated in study abroad opportunities via BestSemester and other campus programs; and international students who have studied at CCCU member schools. Together this tapestry of perspectives highlights the variety God has woven into humanity and the beauty and growth that ensues when we cross between cultures.
In Their Own Words
In my capacity as a college professor and administrator, I have been helping college students study abroad and international students study here in the US since 1985. Including my own children, who are now young adults, I have facilitated study abroad for more than 500 American students and more than 100 international students studying in the US. I know from extensive personal experience that exposure to other cultures and languages is one of the most valuable educational experiences possible. In my estimation, a semester abroad is equivalent to two years in the classroom. I have also served on CCCU's Student Academic Programs Commission since 2005. It has been a joy to visit the CCCU international programs, to assess their effectiveness, to advise and encourage them, and then to report back to the CCCU home campuses. I can recommend every one of the CCCU programs enthusiastically and without reservation.
—Bob Herron, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College and the Graduate School at Trinity International University (IL), CCCU SAPC member
The advantage to study abroad is that you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, a clearer understanding of your culture, and a broader understanding of God. We imagine ourselves to have particular qualities: patience, for example. However, the reality is that we have shaped our surroundings and schedules in such a way that we exclude (as much as we can) the likelihood that we will encounter situations that are likely to make us impatient. Thrust into a new culture, we are forced to deal with a barrage of system shocks that soon show us how patient we really are.
When we have lived in only one country, we look at the things that we and those around us both think and do as “life.” When we live in a different country, we see (immediately and over time) the differences in the way people in that country look at things; we see which values take precedence over others (such as group harmony over self-fulfillment). Eventually, we have a vantage point for seeing more clearly our own culture as a reflection of the things we value more highly. The shock for Christians is to see the extent that our culture supersedes the Bible in shaping how we think and act.
Our culture affects the way we perceive God. We “see” those aspects of God’s character that resonate with things in our culture, and we often overlook aspects—even though they may be clearly spelled out in the Bible—that, for whatever reason, do not resonate with our culture. As we learn how people in another culture perceive differently the character, attributes, and workings of God, this broadens our perceptions and ultimately affects how we live.
—Jay Lundelius, Director of the CCCU’s BestSemester China Studies Program
The power of the BestSemester programs is their potential to serve as laboratories for CCCU students exploring the power of ideas in a diverse and international setting. In the few years that I have been involved in international education, I am amazed at how much the study abroad experience changes lives. As campuses send more students abroad, the richness of the experience enlarges the conversation about professions and ideas back on the home campus. To be relevant in the future, campuses will need to find ways to enlarge the international experiences of the students. In turn, this contributes to the educational goals of the school. The powerful educational experience that the student has, starting with the home campus classroom experience, combined with the study abroad experience, builds a student into the type of graduate that each institution strives to produce. As an alum, the student will add to the value of the degree, and manifest the mission and vision of the institution.
—Brock Schroeder , Vice President for Enrollment Management at Malone University (OH), CCCU SAPC member
How can you make informed judgments about yourself, your society and your culture if all you know is your own small piece of the world? Rudyard Kipling, a great traveler, once said, “What knows he of England, who only England knows?”
While any international travel might broaden your horizon a bit and potentially increase the ability to know yourself, it is not truly effective if you go only as a sightseer, who gains at best a romantic view of a place, dipping in and out of the culture and taking in the “postcard sites.” A sightseer acquires some fun photos but lacks vision and misses the real picture. It is only if you can commit to being something more than a tourist, making the effort to engage with the culture as a participant, that you are being properly equipped to understand that culture and contribute more fully to your own. (After all, if you can romanticize someone else’s homeland, how can you not but romanticize your own?)
Students who come to Oxford as part of the Scholars Semester in Oxford or the Oxford Summer Programme become part of Oxford University’s academic community, discovering a rich set of resources, which contributes to their own development and to others. They experience a broader world that they can use to evaluate better their own place within it, and in the process reveal new aspects of themselves, new options to develop, and new ways of seeing.
International education: a form of vision that helps expose both our personal and cultural blind spots. Be warned, though, vision can be challenging!
—Stan Rosenberg , Director of the CCCU’s BestSemester Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (offering two programs, the Scholars’ Semester in Oxford and the Oxford Summer Programme)