Become a Champion for International Education

 

Learning About the World

It is apparent every day that our world is interconnected and interdependent. Tomorrow’s citizens will need a sophisticated understanding of other societies and their ways of thinking, and of the transnational challenges facing us all. Students at all levels of education need access to information about world issues—and about the ways people in other societies approach these issues—in order to become productive members of the world community. They need opportunities that can help deepen skills related to working with people who are different from themselves. These opportunities include time to talk with, listen to, and learn from people from other cultural and national backgrounds, access to study materials about other parts of the world and other cultural perspectives on the global issues of the day, and chances to see first-hand how people in other countries live, learn, and engage with the world.

All of us have myriad opportunities to champion these learning opportunities for students in the United States. Simple acts by individual citizens to increase our students’ access to knowledge about the world can make a lasting impact for our students and our society.

The Top 12 Ways To Be A Champion For International Education

  1. Get to know people in your local community whose cultural heritage is different from your own. Introduce your children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews to celebrations, foods, and languages from other cultures, and help build young people’s curiosity about and interest in the world.
  2. Invite your neighbors to a coffee hour to discuss a book written outside the United States and how it adds to our understanding of another society. Ask them how they feel our schools can better prepare students for our interconnected world.
  3. Tell local teachers and school administrators how important it is to you that young people learn about the rest of the world. Help find materials or experts in your local area that can enrich classroom discussions about other societies. Volunteer to talk with classes about the excitement you or your family felt when traveling abroad.
  4. Help local teachers start international pen-pal programs or online conversation groups with young people in other countries. If you don’t know where to start, talk with community members born outside the United States about teachers they know abroad who might help with such a program. Explore online programs that connect students across borders such as www.iearn.org and www.soliya.org for ideas.
  5. Find out about international students and scholars attending schools, colleges, or universities in your area. Contact the international students and scholars office of your local college or university to locate program officers who can help you learn how to connect these students and scholars with your family and friends for shared birthdays, meals, or outings.
  6. Talk with faculty members at a college or university teacher preparation program in your area about the importance of developing teachers who understand and embrace the world. Share examples of classroom practices you have seen that contributed to students’ understanding of the world.
  7. Discover groups in your community that are involved with communities overseas—sister city organizations, charity groups helping others abroad, the Rotary Club, student exchange programs, or others. Find ways you can get involved in programs that build mutual understanding between people across national borders.
  8. Learn about programs in your community or schools that provide study abroad opportunities for students. How are they organized? What were the experiences of students who participated? How could you help a program raise money to provide scholarships for students who might not be able to afford to participate? If there are no such programs offered today, contact organizations such as American Field Service, American Institute for Foreign Study, Rotary International, Council on International Education Exchange, and World Learning to explore opportunities for students in your community. Study abroad advisers on college campuses can also offer ideas.
  9. Talk with your employer about the importance of supporting study abroad programs for young people and the value of welcoming exchange students. Provide examples of the benefits of learning about other cultures and ways your business or organization could help support and benefit from intercultural programs.
  10. Propose the expansion of foreign language training in your community through tapping international college students as a resource. Learn about an innovative online Arabic language study program hosted by Montana State University that is an excellent case study. Visit U.S. Arabic Distance Learning Network and see its program overview, instructional model, and partner institutions.
  11. Write a letter to your state school board or legislator about the value you place on the development of young people’s global awareness. Tell them how you feel our schools can contribute to the development of students’ skills and capacity to engage with the world.
  12. Become a member of Connecting Our World, NAFSA's community of grassroots activitsts who support international education. As a member, you will receive news updates, and be invited to write Congress in support of increasing global competence of U.S. students.

NAFSA Resources