Friday, November 16, 2018

Internationalist - you bet!

I'm an internationalist and proud of it. In an era of fear-mongering among cultures and nations, closing borders, and vilification of those who are different, it's important to own who I have become and to proclaim it now and every day that lies ahead.

Why the proclamation today? It's the end of the 2018 International Education Week observance on many campuses - a week filled with activities, lectures, and events to reinforce the value of internationalism on campus. It's great to have this week but having one week dedicated to internationalism is no longer sufficient - building bridges and striving for mutual international benefit must become a daily commitment.

As a youth growing up in the 1960s I had no passport. I fantasized about international travel, but never really saw any kind of global connection as possible or important. My passport was first issued in 2005 when I taught a course and did research in Europe for a semester. That short-term experience led to my accepting an appointment to work abroad in Qatar from 2007-14, an experience that would forever change who I am. I've changed in many ways. Every human encounter I now have begins with the question of "how might culture impact our ability to relate to one another?" My inclination to believe that my culture and national origin are superior to others has vanished - I now see value in my own as well as many others. I anticipate kindness, openness, and help from others rather than fearing encounters with people who look different or speak a different language than I do. I seek ways to foster mutual benefit - among individuals, groups, organizations, cultures, and countries.

I recently coedited a book with one of the most able internationalists I know - Dr. Darbi Roberts. This book, Cultivating Students' Capacity for International Leadership, is short and focused on the essentials that leadership educators must consider if they are to serve their students well. Serving well means positioning internationalization as a challenge but also as a promising reality that, when embraced, will create a better world.

I'm an internationalist today and every day. As this 2018 International Education Week comes to a close, I hope many more will adopt a view that invites international questions and concerns into the activities and considerations of every day - not just one week.

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