A matter of perspective

Charlie Kraiger Student Galesburg, Michigan

Studying modern European history in a place that’s steeped in history—the oldest university in the English-speaking world—is providing MSU junior Charlie Kraiger with valuable perspective.

As a visiting student at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Kraiger is making the most of new and different experiences—from working one-on-one with a professor as part of a tutorial system to rubbing shoulders daily with residents and tourists, as well as students and faculty, on a campus that’s part of a bustling international community.

“Wow! This is an amazing city with an amazing history, and people come from all over the world in order to be able to experience something that you’re lucky enough to experience almost every day,” Kraiger says he finds himself thinking.

The international studies major is mindful of his good fortune and believes it’s important to help others. Nearly two years ago, he and a friend launched a chapter of ONE—an advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty in Africa—on the MSU campus to educate fellow students about poverty issues and encourage them to take action.

Charlie Kraiger
Galesburg, Michigan

[voices in the background]

Charlie Kraiger: I am currently a visiting student at the University of Oxford, and I am studying modern European history and comparative politics of the European Union.

Tutor: There are certain things, the political ideology, we could also do if you want to do that. But it is sort of up to you really.

Kraiger: Okay. Yeah, that’s fine.

The classes are fundamentally different than the United States. They use the tutorial system instead of a classroom-style system. And that means that the classes that students take are a lot more individualized, and you work one on one with your tutor, as we would call them, professors. And there is no large lecture or classroom setting.

Tutor: I would have to put something in other than politics, just because

Kraiger: Okay, that’s fine.

Tutor: That seems reasonable for a history course.

Kraiger: We are currently at the University of Oxford in Oxford in the United Kingdom. This is St. Catherine’s College, my college here at Oxford. It is certainly different than Michigan State where most like everybody on the campus is either a student or a professor or an employee.

At Oxford, because it’s built into the city itself, you have a lot of businesses and tourists and people who just live in the city of Oxford. It’s kind of nice in a way though, because it reminds you where you are and that the place you are studying on a day-to-day basis, which becomes normal and almost habitual and sometimes slightly monotonous. It kind of makes you remember that, wow, this is an amazing city with an amazing history. And people come from all over the world in order to be able to experience something that you are lucky enough to experience almost every day.

Because Oxford is located so close to London, students go into the city all of the time for long weekends and things and to visit other friends. And some people are actually from the city itself, so they go home to visit their family. It really is a hub of internationalism, I would say.

The buildings and the history of Britain [sound of Big Ben ringing] is so much older that our vision of what is old is almost distorted because what is so old is really young. It is all a matter of perspective.

As a U.S. citizen talking globally, we have been given so much. And I think that that’s not something that we should take for granted. And I think that it’s important to help others who can’t help themselves.

There is this misconstrued conception that amazing things only happen from amazing people. And my theory has always been amazing things always happen from ordinary people. I think that if you are passionate and interested in what you are doing, you will excel at it. And I think that you will succeed at it. And I think if you don’t succeed in it because you’re passionate and because you are willing to keep trying, eventually you will succeed.

The ONE campaign it is the campaign to make poverty history. It was cofounded by Bono in 2004. Their goal is to help eradicate extreme poverty in Africa. And extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank as generally a person who would live on less than one United States dollar a day, which also means that they are unable to feed themselves and a family, if they have one.

I have been involved with the ONE campaign mostly online activism, signing petitions and things since high school. And then when I came to college, I was really interested in starting a campus group.

And so myself with the help of another friend founded ONE MSU, which is a Michigan State University branch of the ONE campaign. And so our goal has been to educate students on issues of global poverty and how students can make a positive effect in that kind of area.

Previous to having actually been to Africa, it is difficult to envision the starkness and the contrast of their living conditions versus our living conditions. And I think that while seeing pictures of a starving child or a child infected with HIV is heartbreaking through a textbook, but it is even more powerful when you are able to physically see that person and shake their hand and talk with them and ask them what is their life like.

What is the social stigma of living with HIV or AIDS? How do they provide for their families? Are they farmers? In the case of Rwanda, specifically, how many brothers and sisters did they lose to the Rwandan genocide?

The aspect of helping someone who can’t help themselves is very, very fulfilling. I think that being able to help someone who is unable to feed their children, or who is unable to get water because their village doesn’t have it, or who has malaria, or who needs bed nets. I think that need that is there is really—it feels great when you are able to help that person with that need because they can’t help themselves. So I think that feeling of self-worth even is greatly enhanced by helping someone else.

I hope my legacy, if I should have one, would be one of positive impact and that I really tried to help those around me. And I think that I really tried to look at the big picture and to make it just a positive impact, I guess, I would just say.


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