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Thread: Travel as the Antidote to Xenophobia

  1. #1
    Donor LiberalElite's Avatar
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    Travel as the Antidote to Xenophobia

    This election cycle has stoked American xenophobia. Building walls, keeping foreigners out, and monitoring our own immigrant populations are presented as viable security procedures. Barricading our country is not only bigoted and benighted, but also dangerous. Excluding visitors from “suspect” countries will damage our security by preventing those who would have spoken best of us from finding out what there is to admire here. This is not to say that a proliferation of student visas issued at the behest of Iowa State or UCLA will solve the world’s problems, but only that it’s hard to love a place you’ve never visited.

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    Since only children from the wealthiest families can afford a gap year abroad, I strongly urge parents to encourage uni age students to study/live abroad for some portion of their higher level education.. I think the best thing I did in raising my kids (& I was a single Mom) was encouraging them to explore the world, and scraping together the money to help them do it.

    W/ my 3 kids, this started with the eldest doing her entire undergrad degree at University College Dublin (back in the 80's,when Americans could enroll directly in Ireland's university system for very modest tuition. In her case it was some $600 U.S. per year. Today, it would be $7,500-$10,000 for an American). She originally planned to go just for one year, but loved it so much, she did her entire degree there. She shared apartments with Irish kids for less than a dorm room at an IVY school would cost. Granted she did not fly home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But she brought canned cranberries with her and put together an American Thanksgiving dinner every year for her friends in Dublin, and was kindly always invited to one of the Irish students' homes for Christmas and Easter.

    By joining the Economics Club, the Debate Club, the Riding Club, and the Women's Football (Soccer) Team, she got free student trips to London (Threadneedle Street/banking center); Strasburg/France to observe the European Parliament and European Council; free use of quality Irish hunters and jumpers to ride every week; and traveled all over Ireland to play soccer teams from other Irish university campuses. She even ran for and was elected to the student government - no mean feat for an American girl in 1982. Her final year (and she graduated with honors), she set up the first annual women's Irish soccer tournament and arranged participation by women's teams from Queens University, Belfast and Ulster in Northern Ireland. This was a terrific thing since The Troubles were still in full violent mode. She got Bank of Ireland to provide a traveling trophy, and Guinness donated free beer. And she got an excellent undergrad education without having to take out student loans.

    The point I should have gotten to sooner, is that American colleges' "exchange programs" or "study abroad" programs typically mean that American students take classes in English on foreign campuses, but only with other Americans, and often with professors from their home U.S. schools. They live, study, travel, and socialize primarily with other U.S. students. It's a lot of fun in glamorous or exotic cities, but it doesn't provide much interaction with people from the host country, or exposure to what life is like for them.

    Child # 2 played intercollegiate soccer, so there was no way he'd take a year abroad and miss playing. It was only after he got his master's degree that he ended up spending a year in Indonesian rain forests, observing and researching environmental issues. Eventually his career has taken him to the Arctic Circle, London, India, Central America, Juneau and Africa (rafting down the Zambezi River). Last year he spent 4 months in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands. Right now he's in Costa Rica.
    He's a real Indiana Jones kind of guy.

    Child # 3 spent a summer studying at a German university, all classes conducted in German, during which time she rented a room from a German widow who was struggling to support her handicapped daughter. Because of the inexpensive train/ferry travel available throughout Europe, on weekends, she visited US college friends' families in Belgium & France and her big sister's old college friends in Dublin. Later she saved up vacation and comp time and spent 7 weeks in India and became a certified yoga instructor. (Because she'd become Buddhist and loves yoga - she's never gave up her day job.)

    I credit their time spent abroad with the fact that they are none of them in the least racist or xenophobic, and that they are kind, caring, curious, confident, well-informed, contributing members of society who see themselves as citizens of the world, not some jingoistic patriots. (Jingoism: Patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy.)

    There's nothing like experiencing other cultures to give you perspective on & understanding of your own culture. I hope that today's younger Americans are getting that perspective via the internet, even if they can't afford to travel on their own.

    And to quote the article you link to in your OP:
    Travel is not merely a luxury or an educational strategy, but a moral imperative for those who have the means for it. As the economy globalizes, and uprooted populations introduce unanticipated diversity to previously insular societies, we need to know what it means to live and think differently.

  4. #3
    Member cascadiance's Avatar
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    Amen to that... Most of my life as a child I lived either overseas or in a community where white folk were a minority and not a majority...

    Born overseas in Indonesia...
    started grade school in DC area where most folk were African American ethnicity there.
    in Hawaii where most folk were Asian ethnicity there.
    in Thailand.
    in Turkey
    started sophomore year in high school back in Michigan and felt out of place when the community was more white than I was used to with a lot of subtle forms of racism and xenophobia there. And for the most part it wasn't as bad a community as I've heard others to be where that xenophobia was more overt.

    It has really helped me keep a good perspective on that and maintained many friendships of those from many nationalities where I like to be in diverse communities. Doesn't let me slip in to the xenophobic pockets of people that object to H-1B that are lead there in that fashion by Trump, but more in the way Bernie has, and many on the left are less talked about than the left/right divide loving corporate media's emphasis on the meme that this is all "xenophobic" while ignoring of real objections to similar systemic exploitive guest worker program problems in the UK that lead to helping pass the BREXIT vote.
    Vote AGAINST the race to the bottom by both corporate parties who seek to screw workers over globally!

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