25 July, 2011

Global Citizenship

I've been wracking my brain since last week to think of what the next blog post should be about.  Part of me thinks it should be about something to do with getting ready to come over, but packing, money, housing and the other big topics have already been touched on.  My next thought was to talk about something light and cultural, but I'm a bit stuck there.  Writing about accents and comedy was such good fun that I'm not sure what to follow it with.  Seriously, some of the most fun I have ever had doing research was trying to find comedy clips that helped make my point without being too explicit (explicitness isn't something that separates British and American comedians).  There's also the theme of things happening around the ICLC, but the carpets are in now and I don't think we are getting a kitten any time soon.

My choice is to try Bill's tack and address current events.  It was a strange weekend here in London, that just passed.  Strange isn't the most descriptive word to use, but it covers a lot of bases.  It began with horrors in Norway which then fought for headline space with the death of Amy Winehouse.  Two very different events, both startling for very different reasons.

While abroad we hope that you take a keen interest in world affairs.  The term 'global citizen' is thrown around the study abroad community, though its definition can be difficult to pin down.  Is it a reference to global awareness?  Does it mean that social responsibility is shared globally?  Or is it a term for people who are interested in seeing as much of the world as they can?  Do students automatically become global citizens when they study abroad?  Probably not.  It's just as easy to embrace foreign customs while abroad as it is to cling to the traditions you are used to.  It's a choice people make when they find themselves face to face with a new culture.

Whether your four months abroad leave you wishing for many more months abroad or looking forward to your flight home in December, think about your own global citizenship.  Follow the news, stay aware of your surroundings and if you're traveling in Europe and further, stay as educated as possible about where you are going.  In the last few semesters students have canceled trips to Tunisia and Egypt.  Greece, a popular weekend destination, has been very much in the news because of its ailing economy.  The trips you plan are completely up to your discretion so we hope that you are as responsible as you can be when planning your travels.

Some tips for staying aware:
  1. Stay up to date with the BBC.  Because it is not privatized, they make a pretty successful attempt at impartiality.
  2. London has free newspapers in the morning, the Metro, and evening, the Evening Standard.  They can be found at most Tube stations and other travel hubs.  Neither one is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so they should still be around when you get here in August.
  3. Monday-Thursday mornings, the ICLC buys The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, three of the UK's largest newspapers.  They give fuller coverage of more serious world affairs than the free papers and approach them from different political sides.  The ICLC also subscribes to The Economist which arrives every Friday morning.  All of these publications are kept in the building and available to all of our students.
  4. Follow the news at home as well as abroad.  Take note of the differences in the presentation of issues, try to view the USA through an outsider's eyes to gain a better perspective of how you're viewed abroad. 
  5. Stay up do date with the US State Department for news and travel warnings.  You may also want to register your travel details with them so that you can obtain help through the embassy more easily in case of emergency. 
Take the opportunity of studying abroad not only to see more of the world, but see how the world sees you.  For some this may be surprising, for others it may be difficult.  We recommend trying to break out of the 'American bubble' while abroad and get to know the local culture and customs.  Drink tea by the gallon and beer by the pint, have fish and chips, go to a movie premier in Leicester Square and make friends with your work colleagues at your work placements.  Read the free papers like the rest of the commuters, have an opinion about university fees and wait with baited breath to find out if Greece drops out of the Euro zone and goes back to the drachma.

-Claire

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