What an international education means to me

IMG_8645According to Webster’s Dictionary, education means “the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process.” So using this definition as a reference, an international education should be the international knowledge and development resulting from an educational process, right? But what is this knowledge and development and what is the process? It’s tough to define an international education because it means something different to everyone, but here’s my take.

This May, I traveled to Cambodia with the Global Leadership Center to complete our first consulting project. I was on a team with three other OU students and three American University of Phnom Penh students and we were asked to create recommendations for a youth mobilization strategy to end violence against women in Cambodia. Through this process, I learned a tremendous amount about women’s rights and gender equality. It opened my eyes to so much more than I imagined, but I was also learning when we weren’t working on the project. I learned just by taking in everything I saw, and trying to understand the culture. I learned from the dance classes and cooking classes, and tours we went on as well. That’s when I realized that an international education doesn’t end when you leave the classroom.

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In addition to our travels to Cambodia, I traveled to Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand with three friends. Although I wasn’t taking classes, I was learning just by touring these cities. I was forced to work through the language and cultural barriers presented to me, decide who to trust and who not to trust, and find my way from place to place. Things that used to seem so easy ended up being extremely challenging. Every day I was forced to think on my feet and adapt to the changes. I was learning just by being a tourist in another country.

One month abroad taught me more than I expected, and these are lessons I never would have received if I hadn’t made the decision to travel abroad. My international education didn’t stop when I stopped working on my project, and it still hasn’t stopped even now that I’m home. When I left Asia, I left a piece of my heart there. Cambodia and Thailand are now a part of me, and their cultures are something I will forever embrace and continue to learn about.

So to me, international education means to find yourself in the process of learning about others. It means putting yourself out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s shoes, and completely embracing it. An international education means opening your heart and mind to a culture you may know nothing about, and taking it in for all it’s worth. That’s my definition, what’s yours?

Jess Carnprobst is Senior Journalism major pursing a Global Leadership Certificate. Follow her adventures @jess_carnprobst.

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