In North America, it is tragic that not even 4% of our college graduates today, from which many are bound for high positions of leadership, do not seek a learning experience outside the United States during or even after their college years. Travel, perhaps, but none of which study abroad.
“Not necessary,” say many. “We have it all here.”
An extended stay in another country surrounded with a different language with non-Americans has planted in my conscience an array of alternate perspectives on living, values, and my ability to evaluate and find significance where it might not have been noticeable with an American-only perspective. This, I owe, to my European partners.
If a Fulbright experience, or something equivalent, were available to 10-15% of our college graduates, then the US could boost a significant connection with the world beyond our shores. This must begin with travel, but should not stop there and instead, include study and a serious mastery of at least one other language. Having armed with a minimal of “internationalism,” this small percentage of our student body that are entering the world of commerce, academia, and any field of endeavor, would inevitably find life more dynamically constructed and experience a higher degree of tolerance through a difficult world of varied cultures. If the percentage were to jump to 50%, North Americans might begin to feel properly integrated into the world at large where it already claims to have so many interests. Sadly, we cannot see this today. This fantasy is simply not there yet.
Suffice to say, I am presently enjoying the advanced stages of a life-long journey as a student learner of languages from touring professional musicians, group leaders, interpreters, and now founder and director of a decade-old institute that ensures a powerful learning experience abroad for those who join us, The Spoleto Arts Symposia. Indeed, SAS enjoys the full support of the town fathers of Spoleto, many Italian and European friends and associates, but especially all our participants.
I must share one final opinion: as a linguist, it is my deep pleasure to have inspired a number of enthusiastic language students. Over the years, many of my former students have told me of their professional and avocational achievements on the basis of their acquired proficiency in one or more languages. I locate this achievement at the epicenter of any discussions of International Education Week or Multiculturalism of International Cultural Exchange.
Clinton Everett – Fulbright to Spain 1971-72