“American Exceptionalism” – What’s missing at our universities?

american exceptionalism

What’s missing at our universities? Is American exceptionalism  affecting college culture and students’ acceptance of international study?

Our family is fortunate. We have had the opportunity to travel and live overseas on many occasions, most recently in Shanghai China. While we are not unique, we are among the minority. Our experiences traveling have given us the broader view of what it’s like to be a minority in a foreign land and greater acceptance and understanding of those who have traveled to and live in America.

Recently, a Korean student of mine mentioned that Americans will ask where she is from, but typically will simply accept her reply and end the conversation. She believes that “Americans just aren’t interested in knowing about other cultures or people.” She may be on to something.

Currently only about 1/3 of Americans have passports. This number is up since around 2007 due to changes in requirements for border crossings into Canada & Mexico post 9/11. However, there is no indication that we are traveling any more or any further than before. Given that we are firmly planted on home turf, shouldn’t we, and especially our universities, take advantage of living, working, and studying among representatives of so many other nations to learn more about them, their countries and cultures?

The cost of attending a university is sky-rocketing. Many students cannot afford to participate in exchange programs. We owe it to our students to engage them in Global dialogues and internationally-focused activities. The world is shrinking, business is Global, and it’s imperative that our schools teach cross-cultural understanding – not just racial tolerance – and that we make efforts on a far broader scope to bridge the gaps inside and outside the classroom.

Should we be demanding that foreign language study and cross-cultural courses be required of all majors? What do you think will benefit our students and make them Global Citizens? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Interested in more information on international study? Learn more at the following links:

Travel Tuesday Tip: Apply For A Passport Before You Go To College  http://www.smartcollegevisit.com/2012/05/apply-for-a-passport-before-you-go-to-college.html

Effortless Eco-Smart: Lifehacks for Studying Abroad   http://www.smartcollegevisit.com/2012/12/effortless-eco-smart-lifehacks-for-studying-abroad.html


Are you a student from outside the US interested in attending a US university? Smart Courses can help you prepare:

TOEFL instruction and Academic Transitions to US universities  http://smartcollegeconsulting.com/smart-courses/

2 Replies to ““American Exceptionalism” – What’s missing at our universities?”

  1. Stella Guarna

    I support the idea of universities requiring foreign language studies and cross cultural courses for all majors. We do live in a global world and we must be fully prepared to engage in it, whether personally or professionally. However, I cannot fully agree with your statement that Americans just aren’t interested in other cultures or people as it is a bit broad. Years ago foreign nations and foreign cultures carried a certain mystique. For many it was unthinkable or an unattainable goal to travel to a foreign country or to learn a cultural or social mores. We may have been drawn to the unknown. Social media has changed all that. Perhaps it isn’t so much that we aren’t interested in other cultures, but rather when we are, we can visit a website and instantaneously believe we know all about it.

    • Beth Parker

      Thank you for your reply! You have a valid point. The world has become more accessible and we have many ‘arm-chair’ travelers. However travel has also become more accessible to the masses – yet many still don’t seek it out under the premise that America is ‘the best place to be and has anything anyone could ever want’. It’s a conundrum to me. Again, thanks. I hope others weigh in!

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