As the International Education Coordinator for Sister Communities of San Ramón, Nicaragua (SCSRN), I am happy to share with you how we at SCSRN understand what international education is. As more and more people are exploring the world through our cultural immersion ecotours and international educational trips, we wanted to share what we aspire to accomplish with our international education (IE) program. I am going to focus mainly on our IE trips, which serve students of an academic institution – but this program’s goals could be for anyone wanting to be global citizens!
President Barack Obama promotes international education in calling for American schools to align student development with the demands of the global economy. He states, “The source of America’s prosperity has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st-century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there’s an Internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is now competing with a child in New Delhi, where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know — education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it’s a prerequisite for success.” (http://asiasociety.org/education/president-obama-calls-american-education-system-align-global-economy) At SCSRN, students will begin their journey in building the knowledge and skills to participate in a globally interconnected environment, economy, and family.
One major framework that schools are using to cultivate global citizens are the Global Competencies (http://asiasociety.org/mapping-nation/global-competence – I will use this resource and website for this blog’s quotes). As a major focus of the U.S. Department of Education’s International Education work, the following competencies detail how schools and organizations can promote global consciousness:
- Investigate the World
- Weigh Perspectives
- Communicate Ideas
- Take Action
- Apply Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Expertise
By investigating the world, students strengthen their awareness, curiosity, and interest in learning about the world and how it functions. “Their questions are globally significant, questions that address important phenomena and events that are relevant world wide – in their own community and in communities across the globe.” They can make the connections in their learning journeys from the local to the global, analyzing intellectually and emotionally credible information from local, national and international sources (in multiple languages). SCRSN aims to support this global competency by orienting teachers and Trip Organizers before their travel to San Ramón by discussing their group’s global curricular objectives, helping cultivate these objectives to be globally competent, and customizing their trip to realize these goals.
Next, we help our SCSRN travelers weigh different perspective as our staff in San Ramón (along with the U.S.-based staff) heavily promote an equal exchange between our trip participants and the people of San Ramón. We aim to communicate with our San Ramón partners to assure that their experience is as enriching and educational as that of their U.S. counterparts. We want their perspective to be heard so everyone can develop their minds to operate in a globally conscientious way. “Their understanding of others’ perspectives is deeply informed by historical knowledge about other cultures as well as contemporary events. They can compare and contrast their perspective with others, and integrate their own and others’ viewpoints to construct a new one, when needed.”
The SCSRN international education experience supports the goal of communicating ideas by immersing students in another culture, from living in the homes of our San Ramón partners, as well as by participating in service projects alongside San Ramón community members. From conversations at the dinner table or through group work with the English class at the local high school, travelers become part of a communication exercise that is truly meaningful. “Communicating ideas occurs in a variety of culturally diverse settings, and especially within collaborative teams. Globally competent students are able to situate themselves in a variety of cultural contexts, organize and participate in diverse groups, and work effectively toward a common goal.”
The next global competence is to take action. We have seen how many travelers return home and are excited to see how what they have learned on their trip can make a difference in the world. Some have decided to convince their school, church, or their families to sponsor a rural school in San Ramón through our Rural Schools Partnership program. “Alone or with others, ethically and creatively, globally competent students can envision and weigh options for action based on evidence and insight; they can assess their potential impact, taking into account varied perspectives and potential consequences for others; and they show courage to act and reflect on their actions.”
The final global competence involves applying disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise within a global context. As students master the various academic disciplines, such as history, science and art, the globally competent student can use this knowledge and insert global realities into his/her learning. “Global competence also requires the ability to understand prevailing world conditions, issues, and trends through an interdisciplinary lens as well, in order to understand the interconnectedness of the issue and its broad themes as well as subtle nuances.” Our international educational trips introduce travelers to the history, cuisine, environment, political climate, and art of San Ramón, making their adventure interdisciplinary – thus creating a foundation for these globally competent folks to approach and apply their life-learning with a global lens.
SCSRN offers students of international education (and all those interested in cultivating their global competence, whether a student at a school or a student of life) a chance to grow these global competency skills within a warm and welcoming experience abroad. As we fashion our trips to meet the needs of citizens of a rapidly changing and interconnected world, we also assure that we make our travelers feel like part of a family that will take care of them while they are visiting us. We also can keep in touch via social media once people return to the U.S. We see this as another global competency – to maintain relationships with our global partners who have impacted our worldviews. SCSRN offers trips that are unique from other study abroad programs, in that we value the connections we form with the San Ramón community. As my world-reknowned professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dr. James Peacock taught me, we enter different cultural experiences to connect with people and have lifelong friendships… in other words, lifelong global competence.
Having grown up in a bicultural way, I know that it can be hard to feel like you belong in the dominant culture. However, I absolutely remember the people I met throughout my life who were global citizens. They had a sensibility that made me feel like they wanted to know about my unique life experience and learn from it. I felt like they celebrated my friendship rather than feared being with someone different. These worldly people welcomed me into their lives, inquired about my perspective, and strove to do so with everyone they met. They were adventurers, humble explorers, devoted to the evolution of their own point of view by learning about the world community as a whole (not just from their own community). They knew that in order for the world to be a better place, they needed to understand it first. This is what we at SCSRN aim to do with our international education program. Come join us!