The author and poet Wendell Berry said, “Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.”
For generations of Kalamazoo College students and alumni, study abroad has been common ground and a common bond. While no two experiences are ever the same, the adjectives used to describe them are often similar: empowering, transformative, mind-opening.
When I went from my hometown in Monterrey, Mexico, on my first study abroad experience at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire during my junior year of college, I realized how much everything I assumed about the world became open to question. I learned that immersing yourself in a different culture inspires inquiry and engenders empathy. It breaks down stereotypes and broadens your perspective. When I encourage students to go abroad, I do not do this because I read a book or know the theories about its impact; I do it because studying abroad changed my life. It opened so many doors that I did not even know existed.
Throughout my long career as an educator and administrator, I’ve championed study abroad opportunities for students, and I believe K’s commitment to international and intercultural study is one of the hallmarks of the K experience that makes this College exceptional.
In this issue of LuxEsto, you’ll read about three alumni whose liberal arts and study abroad experiences prepared them for careers in the U.S. Department of State. You’ll note that these three women did not all pursue the same majors or paths. One knew she was interested in international relations from a young age, another thought she might become an archeologist before her K-Plan led her down a different road; two went straight to graduate school, another ventured out on a Fulbright fellowship and first taught English overseas. Yet the common bond of study abroad and language learning laid a foundation that made them exceptionally well-equipped to work with diverse teams in foreign policy and relations.
Their story is but one example of how the K-Plan, when fully realized, opens doors to opportunity. As we begin another academic year on our fair Arcadian hill, and as K moves into the final year of the Brighter Light Campaign, I want to reiterate my gratitude to our faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends who help ensure that current and future generations of students can share in this common bond.
Saludos and lux esto,
Jorge G. Gonzalez