"The more you embrace the world, the more you discover things about yourself and help to build the infrastructure for global citizenship."
Professor of international relations
A teacher and a scholar of international political economy, international relations and political theory, Hilbourne Watson views the University's study abroad programs as an important component of the process that leads to the intellectual, cultural and personal development of students.
Watson argues that while it is possible to read about another culture, study the language and even visit the society, it is only when students become immersed in a culture through the study abroad experience that they begin to move from the abstract to the concrete, to developing a sense that they are part of a world that is larger than their society. Study abroad helps to remove the cultural blinkers and often provides a way to see that our commensurable diversities matter more than our cultural differences.
Watson tells students that the world is their home, not just the country they were raised in. Studying abroad gives them the opportunity to see life in a society as it is lived with enriching day-to-day experiences.
"The study abroad option forces our students to take advantage of opportunities to live with families in other countries and provides them with a better sense of who they, because the experience challenges them to become culturally and intellectually curious about the wider world and to operate out of their element," he says. "This is when they begin to come to consciousness of the world and see it as their real home. It forces them to question aspects of their individualism and hopefully break free of fetters typically imposed by national narrow-mindedness." The study abroad experience hopefully makes a contribution to the "search for our universal humanity."
The students are enriching their own lives, says Watson, along with the lives of the people they spend time with. When they return, they are able to share their experiences with others and work to break down cultural barriers.
Watson soaks up much from the stories the students share about their study abroad experiences. "It is always my own curiosity that draws out every tidbit and nugget from them," he says. "I am trying to learn something from them. Often, it is the experiences we have outside the classroom from which we learn the most. The more you embrace the world, the more you discover things about yourself and help to build the infrastructure for global citizenship."
Posted Aug. 2012