Travel to Africa, change your life

Travel Perspectives — By on March 12, 2007 at 7:50 am

In his NY Times column, Nicholas Kristof has been a longtime proponent of the benefits of travel, particularly as an educational tool. Now he’s at it again and, as he puts it, “putting my company’s money where my mouth is.” He announced in yesterday’s column that he is running another “win a trip” contest and, as he did last year, will take a university student with him on a future reporting trip to Africa, likely to Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. He’s also expanding the program this year to include a high school or middle school teacher.

Why does Kristof push international travel experience, especially to the developing world?

That lack of firsthand experience abroad also helps explain why we are so awful at foreign policy: we just don’t get how our actions will be perceived abroad, so time and again – in Vietnam, China, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Latin America – we end up clumsily empowering our enemies.

Part of the problem is that American universities do an execrable job preparing students for global citizenship. A majority of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, but the vast majority of American students graduate without ever gaining any insight into how that global majority lives. …

That’s one reason that I always exhort college students to take a gap year and roam the world, or at least to take a summer or semester abroad – and spend it not in Paris or London, but traveling through Chinese or African villages. Universities should give course credit for such experiences.

More information and an online application are available here. Deadline is April 6.

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