Photo: Je suis Paris by Marc Oliver John 2015

On Paris versus Beirut: Study Abroad Elsewhere Than Europe

[pullquote align=right] “In a world divided by ideological conflict, studying abroad raises cooperation across our planet.”
[/pullquote]As my Facebook newsfeed filled with the tri-color filter on my friends’ profile pictures, I recognized another change, many pictures now featured the user and the Eifel Tower.
Alongside those who temporarily “Frenched-out” their profiles, another pattern emerged in my filter-bubble in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Paris. Many on my newsfeed critiqued that we mourn certain human tragedies, such as Paris, but are unsympathetic to others.
Media pundits heard their voices, producing op-eds that made convincing cases explaining why Paris received more news coverage and international sympathy. Brian J. Phillips concluded in the Washington Post that “the Paris attack continues to draw interest because of the relative rarity of terrorism in France, the fact that the country receives visitors from around the globe, the shocking nature of the attack, and the potential implications for the Islamic State’s future plans”.
[pullquote align=left] France, Italy, The United Kingdom, and Spain accounted for 40% of all study aboard.
[/pullquote]Phillips and a chorus of other public intellectuals made a sound case for our empathy disparities. Although their explanations are sensible and our behavior rational; we should challenge ourselves to change our selective grievances. In our globalized era, swaths of instability in one corner of the world can affect far away regions by causing refugees crises, creating fertile grounds for international terrorist organizations, and leading to the rise of xenophobic political parties. In today’s interconnected planet we should strive to become more equal sympathizers.
One way to achieve this was apparent in my newsfeed that night. So many of those Eiffel Tower pictures were taken on study abroad programs from American Universities. To produce better global citizens American schools should provide more programs that send students to Asia, Africa, The Middle East, and Latin America.
Taso Lagos, a professor of International Studies at the University of Washington, explains the benefits of international education, “in a world divided by ideological conflict, studying abroad raises cooperation across our planet… showing that more unites us than divides us”. Universities should encourage students to study across the world because it shows us how we are more alike than we realize. Where are Universities in the US sending their students?
According to the Association of International Educators, over half of American students studying abroad in 2013-2014 did so in Europe. France, Italy, The United Kingdom, and Spain accounted for 40% alone. That is more than eight times the amount that studied in the entire African continent. We should strive to change that.
[pullquote align=right] American schools should send students to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
[/pullquote]As my newsfeed showed — and as Phillips and other columnists argued — a critical ingredient for the outpouring of global support Paris received is the large amount of international visitors it hosts. Of course other factors, such as the relative security of Europe in the last 70 years, played a huge role as well and cannot be altered by any University program. With that said, American Universities can try and make their students care more for other parts of the world, by sending them there.
In order to develop global citizens who are more universally sympathetic, American study abroad programs should pivot their programs away from Europe and rebalance with the rest of the world. The experiences of studying in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East will broaden their worldview, boost creativity, and deepen their care for their hosts.
As the latest attack in Paris indicates, in today’s interconnected globe instability in one corner of the world can, and will, occasionally spill over to the most stable of places. We better get used to caring for one another.

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