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The Importance of a Global Perspective: Key Ingredients

In my last post I ended with our mission statement: “To educate students with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world”. I also talked about a few of those challenges and the interest amongst our students to be engaged with finding solutions. But how is a global understanding and the type of global perspective gained by sailing on Semester at Sea, further that mission. I believe that some of the hallmarks of a global perspective are: awareness of self in a global context, recognizing a role as a global citizen and global leadership.

Awareness of Self in a Global Context – The beginning of this awareness for us starts with the ability to listen – This is paramount in our educational approach. As soon as students board they begin to learn about the importance of hearing and understanding the story of others. This starts as they meet people from colleges and universities all over the world and make new friendships. They also learn the importance of their own story and the impact their past has on shaping who they are.

Recognizing a Role as a Global Citizen – Paramount to taking on this role is the development of empathy – Students often come on Semester at Sea because they are looking for something different. We are not the typical study abroad program, and these highly motivated students often have a fairly high level of care for others. However this sense of care and concern for others is explored to new depths as the community builds on board between faculty, student, staff, family members, crew and our lifelong learners. This care is extended to in-port experiences as we strive to make the most of our time in each country. When the community comes together on the ship we reflect on our experiences and share with one another.

The ability to listen and growing empathy makes way for greater awareness of the importance of: community, one’s own culture, other people’s culture, the differences and similarities amongst people around the world, of the issues humanity faces, and of our shared interest in the success of all people. It is as dear friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu so beautifully articulates using the concept of Ubuntu. A phrase that means, ‚ÄúI am because you are: people are people through people.‚Äù Our students gain an awareness that we are not and cannot live in isolation from one another. And that our fate is intrinsically linked with our fellow human beings. Our students learn that they can relate to and engage others with people from different backgrounds, countries, cultures, and who have differing world views.

Global Leadership ‚Äì The leadership required for today‚Äôs volatile world inevitably involves a level of risk taking. We see our students begin to cast off their fears, trust others, live outside their comfort zone and take risks. This might mean starting a social venture or non-profit like some of our alumni have done: Adam Braun, Daniel Epstein, Jessica Jackley, and others, or might mean making a decision on what type of degree to complete, what type of company they want to work for, or even returning to intern or study abroad in a country we have visited. Whatever the outcome, our students return home anxious to “do” – to begin making a difference and living out the spirit of their voyage in their lives.

It is my belief that all college students should develop a global perspective and many more students should be studying abroad than currently do. The 1.4% of undergraduates who study abroad is not nearly enough to ensure that our most educated future leaders – of our governments, businesses, and educational institutions that we believe are so critical – are able to address the challenges we face.

I also believe that study abroad programs need to continue to develop meaningful experiences that expose students to and help them understand how they can contribute to those challenges.

In my next post, and last in this series, I will talk about some of the challenges we face and what we are doing in the future.

The Importance of a Global Perspective Series

These three part blog series explores the connection between a global perspective and addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. As future leaders, college students today require the perspectives, experience, and skills that will enable us to make progress towards addressing those challenges. A study abroad¬†experience¬†is critical to that endeavor.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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