What to Do with Your One Wild and Precious Life? Three Positive, Inspiring Stories about Study Abroad.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day

Our lives deserve to be lived as the wild and precious times they are. As the academic year celebratorily closes, I spoke with three women whose own lives have inspired me in the past nine months. Two will return home – to China and Japan – and another will take her first flight abroad.

Some context. Of the 72 international exchange students who studied at Cal State LA in the 2018-19 year, a handful of them actively participated in our weekly meetings and volunteering on and off campus. Natsumi Nishioka from Japan and Yumeng “Sky” Deng from China were two of these students. And of the over 100 students who studied abroad the same year, Debra Lozano is one. She has received two scholarships and will board a plane to Australia this summer.

While each student takes a different path, they all share the same perspective: positivity. Here are their stories. Continue reading

What Will the Field of International Higher Education Look Like in 5 Years?

Every November for the past 100 years, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has been collecting data on international education. The data collected there, self-reported by approximately 3,000 educational institutions, answer these two questions: Who studies in the United States? Who studies abroad?

By writing this feature, I rooted my own experiences – working with international student services for over seven years and managing a study abroad program for nearly five years – in answering the following question:

What will the field of international higher education look like in five years?

Upon reflecting upon trends in international higher education, including trends in immigration and pop culture, these are the three directions I believe our field will take in the next five years:

  • Canada will continue to draw international students. We can learn from this.
  • South Korea and the Korean language will increase in popularity, whether we’re ready or not. Here’s how we can ride the “Korean wave.”
  • Universities in the U.S. will have to hold themselves accountable through assessment; study abroad offices are no different. Consequently, assessment and scholar-practitioners will be more highly valued and sought after. I’ve listed a few things we can do.

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Remembering a Genocide: A Monumental Educational Trip to Turkey and Armenia

It was the last day of traveling. We had begun the morning in Istanbul with a typically decadent breakfast buffet of bread, cheese, olives, and tomatoes. The 14 of us – UC Irvine students, faculty, and administrators – continued with a tour of the old city Sultanahmet, its ancient walls filled by three thousand years of empires and republics.

Now we were at our final destination: the Hrant Dink Foundation. Here, we talked and had copper-colored çay with Rober Koptaş, newspaper editor, and Delar Dink, daughter of Hrant Dink, Turk-Armenian and former Agos editor who was assassinated by a Turkish nationalist. Our visit included a stop at the site of Dink’s untimely 2007 death, marked by a plaque in the sidewalk. The foundation has carried on Hrant Dink’s mission, including hosting dialogue programs between Turks and Armenians.

Dialogue. This word had followed us on the two-week tour through the South Caucasus countries of Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia where we studied the genocide of 1915. A dictionary would define “dialogue” as an “exchange of ideas” and “discussion … aimed at resolution.” But our many conversations never reached a resolution and were unsettling, uprooting generations of pain in our own group.

Was peaceful resolution ever possible? Was justice within reach? Continue reading

New Beginnings and Adventures: The Impactful First Few Weeks at Cal State LA

It’s now the midpoint of the fall semester at Cal State LA. But as anyone who works at universities knows, this is the fullest time of the year: orientations, commencement, and welcome-back events. While the end of the spring term is a season of bittersweet goodbyes, the beginning of the fall is marked by the elation and anxiety of the new.

What beautiful chaos.

I highlight these new beginnings and adventures by featuring three people in my life whose study-abroad orbits are fundamental parts of my fall semester: Karyos Tyus, who is currently abroad; Alesia Miles, who has recently returned; and Dr. Leonor Vazquez, who is about to leave.

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Are We Promoting Study Abroad as Tourism?

Recently, a colleague asked me, in reference to students who had already traveled widely – children of expatriate businesspeople; religious students who had completed missionary trips – “How do you convince them to study abroad?”

Similarly, some students offhandedly tell me, when I ask them why they don’t study abroad, “I want to travel, but maybe I’ll do it later when I have enough money.”

At the heart of those statements lies one assumption: That there is no difference between other types of travel and study abroad. That assumption is understandable. It is also false.

What, in fact, is the difference between other types of travel and study abroad?

There are many answers. “Academics” comes to mind (after all, “study” is in the name).  So does helping “students realize that different cultures have different expectations and value”; in 2006, John Barbour, a professor of religion at St. Olaf College, wrote poignantly about this in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

To wrestle with the moral ambiguity of tourism — and of our educational programs — is vitally important. One outcome of traveling should be to develop an uneasy conscience and a critical self-consciousness about our practices when we go abroad.”

Yet the field of study abroad continues to resemble the field of tourism. Tonight, I opened Instagram and searched for university study abroad offices. I also searched for study abroad program providers. What I found: they were indistinguishable. Where was the necessary wrestling with “moral ambiguity of tourism”? Continue reading