Nov. 18, 2015
“That could have been me.” After I absorbed the horrible news coming out of Paris last week, that’s one thought that came to me. Two years ago, to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation, we hopped over to Paris from Glasgow. We roamed the streets, we talked to locals, we ate in outdoor cafes – we did the very things that people were doing when they were violently struck down. I could picture the places around the city that were attacked because I had been there.
Violence and despair happen around the world every day and I am angered and saddened when hearing about each instance. But it is only human nature that events in those places I have a connection with seem to cause more anguish.
Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t traveled much. But a combination of my daughter going to school overseas and a major international journey for work, allowed me to see places I’d never thought I’d see. Those places, and the people I met there, will stay with me forever.
Though we didn’t get outside of the airport in Nairobi, I was horrified to learn of the Kenyan school attack. I could picture the people of Kenya and my heart ached. I read about children dying from air pollution in Beijing and think about the curious children I met and the grit on everything we touched. Factory fires in Bangladesh and hurricanes in Mexico make me worry for the people I saw in those places – families just like mine but in a different land. Last spring I read with horror about people with albinism being murdered in Tanzania and I cried wondering if the little boy we met there had escaped that fate.
The more I traveled, the more I understood other cultures and other people. My travels were an education; opening my mind and giving me a different glimpse of this big, big world we live in. Sometimes that glimpse is hard. Human suffering affects me more profoundly now that I’ve seen it up close. Yet I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything and I truly believe I am a better and more compassionate person because of them.
At MSU, helping students to become informed global citizens is an important part of their education. In fact, the university ranks in the top 10 for international student enrollment and study abroad participation, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors Report released last week.
Jeremy Kozler, a senior majoring in finance, is one student who took advantage of the opportunity to broaden his horizons. He studied business during a study abroad program in Europe. He says that experience has been a main talking point when talking to potential employers. According to him, “In today’s increasingly global world, employers love to see and hear about experiences that demonstrate your ability to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds.” Read more about his experience in the STUDENT VIEW: Jump In to Study Abroad.
Here on campus, researchers are also dedicated to research and teachings that broaden worldviews. Mohammad Khalil, the director of the MSU Muslim Studies Program and an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, is focused on challenging assumptions and shattering stereotypes for a deeper understanding of the world. Watch the video in the FACULTY VOICE: Challenging Assumptions, to learn more about his work.
My travels also took me to Rwanda, where we met with an MSU researcher who was helping people in the genocide-ravaged country grow more nutritious beans. When you travel to places with real food insecurity, it puts a whole new perspective on what true hunger really looks like. MSU has researchers on campus and around the globe working to solve food security by finding ways to grow food in less than ideal conditions.
Spartans right here in Michigan are also helping farmers find ways to grow nutritious food in harsh climates. An MSU entrepreneurial incubator farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is teaching apprentice farmers how to use innovative sustainable growing practices to launch farm businesses that provide healthy local food. Watch the video MSUTODAY FEATURE: Grow Where You Are Planted, to learn more about this program.
I definitely try to “grow where I am planted” but I also like to think I’ve stretched my branches beyond what I thought possible because I am a Spartan. Spartans approach the world with open minds, a thirst for knowledge and the understanding that the more you know, the more you grow.
Photo of students doing light painting in the Beal Botanical Garden by Derrick L. Turner