A Global Perspective
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Thanks to a partnership between Boston College and Peking University, Jorie Soskin ’08, an international studies and Asian studies major, spent four months in Beijing, in his words, “not simply learning Chinese, but understanding it.”
“Living in Beijing added a cultural understanding to my language training that I couldn’t get from a classroom in Chestnut Hill,” adds Soskin, who participated in the Beijing Asian Studies Program during his junior year.
Soskin is in the vanguard of those who travel from the Heights to Asia, Africa, or Latin America. BC’s Office of International Programs seeks to recruit more students like Soskin who are eager to spend time in so-called nontraditional study abroad destinations. Of the more than 1,000 BC students who go abroad each academic year, less than 12 percent venture farther afield than Western Europe.
According to Bernd Widdig, director of the Office of International Programs, international experience—particularly in a culture vastly different from one’s own—is critical to a liberal arts education. “It’s a question of perspective. In order to describe the house you live in, you have to see it from the outside,” he explains.
For those students who don’t study abroad, Widdig’s office aims to foster greater interaction between BC students and the approximately 125 foreign undergraduates who study at the Heights each year. The office also works with academic departments to add an international dimension to curricula whenever possible.
Although globalization and new technologies make the world seem smaller than it did in 1970, when BC established its first exchange program (with Radboud University in the Netherlands), no replacement has yet been found for a direct encounter with another culture. “To understand the great global challenges such as climate change, poverty, poor health, and education,” says Widdig, “many of our students want to deepen their academic knowledge by an intense, firsthand experience of how those problems affect people’s lives.”