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International Voices

Why Domestic Students Should Think Internationally

What is the main incentive for domestic students to care about international issues? Some people may say that we should care about what is happening in other countries because those overseas problems can directly affect us, such as wars, pollution, and foreign policies. Others may say we might be travelling or even living in those countries, so it would be helpful to know what goes on over there.

In my opinion, these reasons can only push you to absorb more World News on the media, but cannot explain why you should actively engage and think about those issues in a meaningful way. I believe that for domestic and international students alike, caring about international affairs can help us develop a more truthful and tolerant perspective of ourselves and the world around us.

The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth. – John F. Kennedy

We can find personal and universal truths by abandoning our preconceived notions and expanding our knowledge about rich cultures, history, events, or crises in other countries across the globe. For example, if your news feed often mentions Afghanistan’s heroin exports, you should not instantly judge the nation and its people, but should instead consider its complex background and inevitable circumstances that led to the opioid trade. In this way, we can learn facts and situations to give us a more balanced, comprehensive, and accurate viewpoint.

Also, while learning about foreign happenings can enlighten our conceptions, it can also help us see the resemblances between global and domestic issues. We are in an interrelated world in which international issues reflect our society, and these  changes and occurrences in other parts of the world are shaping and impacting the realities around us. Do Germany’s and Austria’s elections mirror our own political climate? Does Quebec’s policy against “niqab” and “burka” threaten religious freedom and Western democratic values? Questions such as these can open your mind to international issues, while at the same time thinking critically about them and their global connection with our own environments can equip us with a more conscious and holistic worldview.

“The highest result of education is tolerance” ― Helen Keller

We can best learn and mature when challenged by ideas, beliefs, and ways of life different from our own. Some social practices or values may sound absurd and incomprehensible to us, but they also teach us acceptance and respect for others’ cultures. Furthermore, we can even learn through disagreeing with foreign policies and socio-economic changes in other countries that go against our opinions of how things should be done. However, similar to international students having culture shocks in the U.S or American students struggling to fit in while studying abroad, we may eventually understand, appreciate, and fall in love with those foreign values. Therefore, through caring about international affairs, we can grow to embrace those human differences and uniqueness that, in co-existence, have made up this rich and diverse world we are in today.

On the other hand, while learning about international cultures and affairs can teach us tolerance, it does not mean we need to tolerate human or animal rights violations in other countries. We, members of the global community, are equipped with the power to access information, in addition to the freedom to speak out for those silenced. As Martin Luther King once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We should, in unity, condemn discrimination, oppression, and violence in both our society and other nations.

In this day and age of rapid internationalization, the ability to communicate about international affairs in an intellectual and sensible manner is highly regarded for our personal and professional lives. For us millennials and college students, education doesn’t only come from classrooms and textbooks; life and the multicultural world around us are also our teachers. More importantly, genuinely caring about foreign cultures, issues, and events can provide truths, evoke compassion, improve our tolerance, and holistically help us grow as better global citizens and human beings.