By Syed K. Jamal:
The 21st century is one of global connectedness. Technology has made things easier, but technology alone does not make it a sure thing. Global connectedness requires specific skills and the right environment. An international education is one great way to be part of that globally minded environment, as well as a means to developing and diffusing it to places where it is most necessary. When you travel abroad for higher education, you begin to challenge those default settings you have grown up in and raise the bar for your own performance as a global citizen.
There is something special about taking the leap to learn new things, meet new people, and gain a new understanding of the beauty of diversity by becoming a part of, and thereby enriching, that experience for yourself and others. Learning to competently navigate complex work cultures, understanding different ethical codes, and interacting in challenging intercultural settings are assets required of the 21st-century global citizen. The mastery of these skills, in many ways, will allow you to lead a crowd of strangers, and find meaning and comfort in strange places. To forge a higher purpose, to be one and to be many, is now part of daily lived experience. It is no longer merely academic, it is now very real, allowing us to work and to collaborate in the midst of uncertainty and the unknown.
And, most importantly, this global competence means having a sense of humour when approaching situations that may amaze, confuse or upset us.
In the present time, where a complex and intertwined economy is characterized by the growth and success of new ideas such as Uber and Kickstarter, and by millions of searches, and thousands of petitions for social change which take place entirely online, it seems to have become “uncool” to go out in the “real” world, meet new people, take on new projects, and dirty our hands! But if we limit our transactions and interactions to the online world, we limit ourselves and our potential.
And so, as we strive to act and live life to the best and the fullest, we pursue that idea of global engaged citizenship. We look for ways to serve others, to make a difference, or, as millions of students have chosen to do, to go abroad to study, and gain a wider understanding of our world.
It is my appeal for you to go out there and learn about our world. See the wonders, confront the problems, find new ways to think about things, and connect with others who may see things from different perspectives. I know that it can seem overwhelming and feel daunting, as we freeze up in fear and confusion when confronted with so many choices to make. It happens to the best of us.
One way to thaw and begin to forge our path is to take part in opportunities that are more organized. With my background in international education, I often recommend that students take a break to do some studies abroad. It’s a big world out there, and there are so many places to go!
With nearly a million international students hailing from every corner of the world the US can been seen as a country with a longstanding commitment to educational exchange. There are over 130,000 from India alone. In order to make a more informed decision about which University to apply for, you can attend a US college fair organized by companies like Linden which has been working with people like you since 1982 to help you meet with campus admissions representatives from many universities across America.
If you’ve been keeping up with recent news about several students being barred from boarding flights because the universities they had been accepted to certain ‘blacklisted’ universities, be rest assured that all of the US universities in its fairs are fully accredited, with established histories of welcoming international students on their campuses. Such fairs are a great place to attend specialized sessions on the application process, US education system overview, and study visa. It is also an awesome opportunity to find out about the university programs that you are interested in, available scholarships and financial aid, campus life, and also connect with many alumni networks. You can attend these fairs for free by simply walking into the venue in your city or, to avoid long lines, register online for a quick entry!
It will be a good start. And, as often happens with good starts, it might just take you in a new and exciting direction to a place you had not yet imagined. Go with it. As long as you travel, grow, and learn to navigate new situations, it will be rewarding.
I wish you a beautiful, crazy and restless life. Go forth and learn!
The author is an International Education Specialist in Washington, USA.