In just about the past month, I’ve had the privilege of traveling twice. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve flown on at least a hundred planes and knocked off five out of seven continents (Australia and Antartica left). To have this opportunity to travel across the world is something I am beyond grateful for.
If there is anything that has allowed me to truly inform my world view, my perspective on life, it has been the opportunity to be able to travel. It’s what has allowed me to connect more with my family and heritage. It’s allowed me to constantly evolve the way I think when I am living amongst people of new backgrounds. Everywhere I’ve had the privilege of going, I meet new people, learn new languages and cultures, and perhaps most importantly, educate myself.
A few weeks ago, I finished reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, one of the most powerful discussions on race in America yet. An aspect of the book I found particularly interesting was how frequently he touched on how there needs to be some sort of incentive to be able to progress political and social change with race. President Johnson was far more willing to go ahead on civil rights legislation when he saw other countries pointing towards the US’s hypocrisy when it came to pushing for equality and freedom abroad when they couldn’t do it at home. There needs to be a way in which people can truly see and witness the benefits of multiculturalism, the power in learning about others.
What if we offered every single high school student the opportunity to travel to a new country?
Logistically and financially, it would be a feat unlike anything is ever taken on by our public education system. With the approximately 16 million current high school students or at least the roughly four million per class, this endeavor would cost well over a few billion every year, maybe $10–20 billion assuming a rough cost of $1000 to $2000 per student. We also need to touch on how to reach students who may have not completed high school or students who drop out and see how to involve them or grant them access.
But, imagine an opportunity for a student to travel with their peers for free to a country abroad and expand their world view?
Being a Silicon Valley student, seeing often families paying their children to go on service trips or traveling for leisure is a common sight. If anything, it isn’t just that this isn’t necessarily a genuine gesture as much as a tack-on for a college application. But what we fail to acknowledge is that these students are gaining access to grow their perspective in ways students without access or the support to travel cannot.
The benefits of these opportunities are nearly endless. Like this essayhighlights, traveling not just about understanding your place in the world within a new context, but it allows you to understand how your life is the way it is. World history that we learn in American public schools is by design west-centric. By contrast, going abroad grants students the important perspective of the world from all different angles, to better inform our population about our context within it.
It would be difficult to come up with the legislative backing to support an initiative like this, much less decide on what countries students are allowed to visit and not visit. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important and that we shouldn’t try. I don’t know if this name of “The National Student Study Abroad Initiative” would be appropriate, but it does have a nice ring to it.
Do you want to help students begin to empathize with others? Traveling with your class is a pretty good place to start. We should just make sure that this opportunity is truly accessible for every student in this country.
Being Noah Tesfaye #97: What If We Had a National Study Abroad Initiative?
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