Monthly Archives: September 2013

An Introduction: What is international education?

For years, I have wanted to study abroad.  I wanted it for the travel experience, adventure, and because I wanted to practice the Spanish language.  During the spring of 2013 I finally crossed “study abroad” off of my bucket list and I lived in Seville, Spain for about five months and traveled around Europe for one month.

While studying in Seville, I was a student with Academic Programs International (API Study Abroad).  Now I’m back at school in the States and am a Peer Mentor with API.  Peer Mentors are API alumni students who go back to their campuses to advocate for study abroad and international education.  We host monthly awareness and advocacy events on our respective campuses, and serve as resources for students interested in going abroad.

The Peer Mentor application process was around the same time that I was brainstorming subjects for my independent research this fall.  I began thinking about international education and became interested primarily in the positive affects that studying abroad has on students.   Then, during Peer Mentor training in Austin, Texas over the summer, a ton of information was thrown at us about international education, global and cultural awareness, study abroad, and a whole range of great concepts that I have never really thought about so deeply before.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I developed this super invested academic interest in international education that I am relating to my media studies.  I think the reason I care so much about international education is because I was fortunate enough to have one.  My study abroad experience was invaluable, and my understanding of people, culture, and the world as a whole expanded significantly during my time abroad.  Unexpectedly , my return to the U.S. taught me even more about the world after I had explored it.  My time abroad helps me to think about the world holistically, and I want to encourage others to adapt that same outlook by participating in an international experience.  It was life-changing, and I believe that if all students were to have a similar experience to learn from, then global awareness, cultural acceptance, and tolerance would be perspectives common to all people.

So… You’ve read four paragraphs and still don’t know what international education is.  Well, international education, sometimes referred to as global education, is an approach to education that works toward educating students on cultural differences and the relationships among world regions and peoples (socialstudies.org).   The social, political, and economic spheres of countries and cultures are undergoing integration, and the world is becoming an interconnected, global community.  International education offers students the skills and knowledge necessary to live in this globalized, competitive world.

International education can be a variety of experiences: study abroad, second language learning, exchange programs, global studies, expatriation, etc.  Regardless of the form it takes, international education exposes diversity, introduces culture, and teaches acceptance.  In our world full of media and technology, these ideas can be spread even more quickly and easily to people across nations.  By studying international education’s relationship with the media, I hope to find ways that the field is evolving and growing, specifically through the realm of social media.  The state of its progress affects the global community at large, and the continued support for international education can yield positive effects for society at large.

In an article about media literacy by Donna Alvermann and Margaret Hagood of the University of Georgia, the reinvention of literacy is discussed in the context of media and technology advancement.  They wrote:

“It is a time of major shifts in cultural practices, economic systems, and social institutions on a global scale; a time when literacy educators from around the world are speculating about the ways in which new technologies will alter conceptions of reading and writing.”

A similar comparison that I adapted from this theory is the relationship between global education and the media.  I hope to speculate about the ways with which the media is helping to advance the field of education.  Technology and media develop much faster than education curricula.  As a result, media can be used as a powerful tool to drive the field of international education forward.

The immediate access that media, particularly the internet/social media, is able to give to people is critical to the development of many industries, especially education.  The LEAD (Leading Education by Advancing Digital) Commission developed a blueprint “detailing the opportunity for using technology as a catalyst to transform and improve American education” (LEAD Commission).   The Commission was established to analyze the current uses of media in the field, as well as build a path forward for expanding digital learning.  They work with the Department of Education as well as the Federal Communications Commissions, and although they are focused on the education system in the United States, their research and findings will be helpful in making connections with, and contrasting to the field education in a global sense.

Another great resource for international education information and news is NAFSA: Association of International Educators.  NAFSA is a leading nonprofit organization in the international and higher education field, focused on promoting public policies committed to advancing these fields.  Connecting Our World (NAFSA’s online community) brings together students, teachers, educators, professionals, and citizens of the world who are all committed to sharing and promoting the value of international education.

NAFSA is focused on establishing public policies in support of international education, while LEAD is focused on analyzing media and technology in the American education system.   Both perspectives will be very useful in examining where the two fields meet.

Ultimately my goals with this independent research project are:
1.  To gain a better understanding of the relationship between media and the advancement of international education
2.  To learn more about what education organizations and professionals are doing to advance and advocate for their field
3.  To explore what kind of advancements have already taken place in the international education field because of the media
4.  To make predictions about the ways that media can continue to help in advancing global awareness
5.  To complete a research paper based on my findings, highlighting the positive ways with which media affects the field of international education

I study mass media because I believe in its power to create, change, and even terminate global societal movements.  I also believe that international education has positive affects on students as individuals, and on the world as a whole.  Social media/online communities, the internet, news, and popular culture are examples of forms of media that could potentially expose its readers, users, and followers to the values of international education.  International education aims to raise global and cultural awareness, and the media produces content that often relates to these concepts.  Media’s influence on international education could be leveraged to accelerate positive change.

At the end of the semester, I hope to compile information, statistics, and resources for material that will generate conversations about the importance of international education.  After all,

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
–Nelson Mandela