This past week was International Education Week in the US. Colleges and universities around the country celebrated the week by hosting various events of an international nature. I was able to make a trip to Stillwater, OK and visit the campus of Oklahoma State University on Friday and attend a few of their International Ed Week activities, including a gallery display by a group of students who had studied abroad this past summer in Kenya.
As I walked down the hall viewing the poster displays, I saw a few students gathered together. I asked them if they had gone on the program and immediately they perked up. “Tell me about it,” I said. From there I heard all about their itinerary, the local students they were paired with, the orphanage they visited, and the baskets they bought from the local women who were trying to develop a self-sustaining community. These young women were so enthusiastic about their experience. Just by standing with them for ten minutes, it was obvious how much studying abroad in Kenya had impacted them and opened their eyes to the world around them. I identified with their emotions and it reminded of how studying abroad changed me.
For those of us who have traveled, I think we all yearn for someone to say to us, “Tell me about it.” So often I hear from students that they return from abroad only to realize that their friends and family are not all that interested in hearing about their experience. But for those of us on a mission to be global from home, living vicariously through others who have traveled recently is so important. Not only do we provide an outlet and a listening ear for the traveler, but the traveler also helps us stay engaged with the international community through their stories.
So dear readers, the next time a friend or family member returns from abroad be sure to ask them about their experience, and if you ever need someone else be on the listening side of your travels, let me know. I happy to hear all about it.
Elise, This is a great post! Many students that I have talked to have spoken about feeling ‘culture shock’ not so much when they arrive in a new country, but when they go back home.
Part of the reason is that they have had such a rich experience that they want to share and nobody bothers to ask them about it. Sometimes people have little knowledge of other places and are afraid to ask ‘stupid questions.’ And yet, even if you have travelled a lot, there are thousands of places that you just can’t know. Far better to admit it and then say ‘tell me about it.” I know that I have learned so much just by asking people about their experiences and most people have interesting stories to tell.
For students who have travelled my advice would be to give the information is small doses. Nobody wants to ask a question and then get a two hour lecture. Keep doing that and you might end up becoming a professor. Quelle horreur!
Another example of how the simple art of listening can be so valuable. Applied in this particular case, it shows how you can plumb a rich and rewarding depth of knowledge from those who have been able to experience other cultures and locales. Wonderful.