Thursday, 23 March 2006

Jon Carroll on the educational value of a trip around the world

Endorsing a suggestion in an earlier article (available to paid subscribers only, unfortunately) by Nicholas Kristof, and endorsing what I’ve been saying for years, Jon Carroll devotes his column in the San Francisco Chronicle today to why every young person — especially in the USA, where this happens less now than in other countries — should take an extended trip around the world, and should receive formal academic credit for the educational value of such a journey. You can read the whole article free at, but here’s a snippet:

[Kristof says] “Universities should grant a semester’s credit to any incoming freshman who has taken a gap year to travel around the world. In the longer term, universities should move to a three-year academic program, and require all students to live abroad for a fourth year. In that year, each student would ideally live for three months in each of four continents: Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.”

I endorse the idea without reservation….

The years between 18 and 22 are clearly the best for long-haul tight-budget traveling. There’s nothing like it. It becomes real easy to identify countries on a map when you’re trying to get from one to another; it’s easy to know the difference between the Rhine and the Rhone, between Tasmania and Tanzania, between Romania and Slovenia, if you’ve actually been to them. It’s easier to get a nuanced view of immigrants if you’ve spent time with them before they emigrated. If you’ve seen Jerusalem, it’s easier to understand the stakes of the conflict over there.

There’s a saying that people are the same the world over, but that’s only partly true. They are the same on the most basic biological level; they prefer health to sickness, bounty to hunger, peace to war — but on a cultural level, it’s not true at all. Understanding how that’s not true, and how to engage in the necessary communication anyway, is a skill that can’t be learned in a classroom. As the world knits more tightly together, that skill becomes more necessary.

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 23 March 2006, 12:11 (12:11 PM)

Overseas study required
Those admitted to Goucher [College] will have to spend 3 weeks abroad
by JASON SONG; The [Baltimore] Sun; Sep 29, 2005; page 1.B

Posted by: Anonymous, 23 March 2006, 15:10 ( 3:10 PM)

Ithink this is a very good idea, which can promote the cultural exchange and mutual understanding of the people around the world.

Posted by: ChineseGuy, 27 March 2006, 02:40 ( 2:40 AM)

Wow. That is so true. We need this especially in the US where we are so geographically distant and culturally so uninformed about the rest of the world. Unfortunately there are too many college students who don't have the funds to travel overseas, let alone around the world.

For some, their education is tightly bound to Federal Financial Aid guidelines, which don't permit you to take time off from full-time study without starting to repay loans. Some wealthy benefactor is going to have to step in and grant a scholarship or two so that more than just the elite can afford to travel. I think it would be money well spent.

For others, the parents pay for schooling and don't understand the value of travel. A lot of parents want to see a job-producing degree in four years and would regard this as an indulgence. If people can afford to buy their kids cars and pay monthly insurance bills, they can probably afford instead to finance at least a short trip abroad. It's a matter of priorities.

When I was 17 my mother gave me a choice for graduation present: two weeks in Europe or a car. I have never regretted the trip. Granted, Europe is hardly an exotic location, but it was eye opening enough that I was never the same. I agree that the best time of life to travel is when you are fit, unencumbered by family or career, and a little bit unformed in your opinions.

Posted by: Dana D, 27 March 2006, 08:26 ( 8:26 AM)
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