Saturday, December 13, 2014

How Studying Abroad Can Change the World: Essay Contest Winners, Part 2

In October, WES Student Advisor asked readers for submissions for our 2014 Essay Contest. The prompt was inspired by a Nelson Mandela quote -- "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" -- and it asked readers to describe how studying abroad can help change the world.

Earlier this month, we shared with you one of the winning entries, an essay by Deepti Gupta. Now, in the second part of a five-part series, we will showcase another one of the winners: a piece by Oreoluwa Philip, whose essay examines the academic, cultural and linguistic benefits of studying abroad.

The purpose of education is to change the world – to make the world a more sustainable place for dwelling. As an African, coming from a region with an average education system but great talent, I have asked myself, where can I become enlightened in my chosen profession? How better to increase my knowledge and change the world than by studying at the feet of the masters? Throughout history, great men and women have left their comfort zones to travel abroad in pursuit of knowledge and skills.

There are several reasons why studying abroad benefits education. It may be impossible to attain the level of professionalism we desire while studying at home because the best mentors and experts may not be available there. In search of knowledge and understanding, we travel far and wide to learn from these scholars. Albert Einstein, one of the most influential scientists of all time, attended a school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich. However, he felt alienated and struggled with the rigid Prussian education he received there. This inspired his eventual relocation to Switzerland, where he became popular for his work on quantum physics, space-time relationships, and the law of relativity.

It was also in Switzerland that he met the physicist Max Planck, who read his papers and took special interest in the young Einstein. The relationships and friendships formed while studying abroad can become some of the deepest friendships one will ever develop. One will be exposed to different cultural beliefs and precepts that may debunk any erroneous stereotypes held previously. Study abroad returnees often report of meeting others with whom they expected to have no common ground and then discovered that, despite being from different parts of the globe, they share many beliefs. This was the case for Cara Harshman, a journalism student who was born and bred in America but happened to be fluent in Yoruba, a Nigerian language spoken by over 50 million people. She went to Nigeria to master the language. In an interview, she said she was surprised by the warmness of the Nigerian people; she had heard contrary statements about Africans, and she promised to return to Nigeria after completing her education in the United States. I’ve heard the same kinds of stories from American friends who thought Africa was just a land filled with monkeys, snakes, and wild animals until they were educated in places like Accra, Lagos, Abuja, Johannesburg, Rabat, and Nairobi.

Language is pivotal in the establishment of long-lasting relationships. I become instantly attracted to someone who speaks my language. If you have studied a language for several years and wish to gain fluency, studying abroad is crucial. Even if you’ve never studied a language, studying abroad will make you gain interest in that language and eventually learn it. Learning a foreign language will make you more attractive to future employers, improve your communication skills, and give profound insights into local cultures and traditions. This invariably strengthens international relationships, thereby making the world a better place.

In conclusion, education is the key to eliminating problems like gender inequality and poverty, creating a sustainable planet, preventing needless deaths and illnesses, and fostering peace. And measures should be put in place to make educational processes much easier, especially for those who want to change the world.

-Oreoluwa Philip

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Congratulations to all our 2014 Essay Contest winners, and thank you to everyone who participated!

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