Celebrating International Education
A global education helps students discover the world — and themselves
A small town situated among the prairie lands and farm fields of Central Iowa might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of a global college. But Grinnell offers many opportunities to learn about and explore the world — whether on campus or through international travel — providing students with a truly global experience.
The U.S. departments of State and Education have declared Nov. 14–18 International Education Week. It’s part of an ongoing effort to promote programs that prepare Americans for life and work in an increasingly globalized society. The weeklong event also serves to attract future leaders from abroad and to recognize the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
“This is an opportunity for us to celebrate the opportunities that students have, both on- and off-campus, to engage in intercultural learning,” says Casey Clements, assistant director of off-campus study in the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE). “We’re doing this through student presentations, panels, and a wide range of International Education Week activities to reach the entire campus and encourage everyone to celebrate with us.”
International education at Grinnell is not limited to off-campus study or study abroad. It can also be found in the language learning component of Grinnell’s curriculum, the intentional collaboration across academic departments and programs, international learning and research, and the critical inquiry, intercultural exchange, and community engagement that IGE fosters to advance Grinnell’s global learning goals.
“We are very much a global campus, and I think it’s extremely important for students to be able to navigate cultures and identities that are not their own,” says Clements. “I think all students who want a global experience should have that opportunity. In addition to learning about other people and societies, it provides an opportunity for students to learn about and better understand their own cultures and identities.”
Becoming a Local
For Marisa Goffman ’24, an independent studies major from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, teaching English in rural Panama meant stepping outside her comfort zone to learn about the local culture.
“I’ve been studying Spanish since I was in kindergarten,” says Goffman. “But I’d never before had the chance to go where everyone speaks Spanish and there is a Spanish culture.”
Goffman spent seven weeks in the country, mostly in the small town of Cerro Punta, deep in the northern hills of Panama close to the Costa Rican border. She worked with the local school district and helped the only English teacher there to provide lessons to students throughout the day.
“I was able to immerse myself in and kind of become a local and I think I did OK language-wise,” Goffman says. “Kids are really at the heart of a lot of communities and they are the ones who are going to pass on the culture, values, and beliefs. I don’t think they get enough credit for that.
“It is really important to have experiences like this like because otherwise we are very homogeneous,” she adds. “You can’t be a good global citizen and fight for social justice without getting the firsthand experience of those injustices and of the different cultures and values that other people in the world have.”
A third-year classics major from Baltimore, Maryland, Kendall Yim ’24 spent eight weeks in Greece over the summer taking two courses and visiting places she has studied for years — but had previously seen only in photos.
“It was very cool to see that the things that I’ve talked about in class and written papers on actually exist and I can see them more closely and get a better understanding of them,” she says.
Yim’s goals for her study abroad were largely academic: to explore sites in person, to finish coursework, and to gain insights on possible career paths. She explored all these areas and more, but also found that just as objects and locations come into greater focus upon closer examination, so do the more intangible aspects of a culture.
“Because the whole class is just Americans it would be very easy to just end up in a little bubble,” she says. “So, I did a lot of things on my own. I went to the gym so I could talk to the locals, and I made a point of going to coffee shops and talking to people there. It took a lot emotional and social energy just to say hi and make conversation, but I became a lot more independent and confident in my ability to interact with others and make friends and get along with people.
“I learned a lot academically, but most of what I learned was from just exploring a new place on my own. I found I’m capable of doing so much myself. It’s been freeing to know I can do anything I want to do.”
These experiences are not unique; they represent the kind of global experiences that Grinnell students have access to every day.
Yim and Goffman, along with several other students, will each present a short talk on their intercultural experiences on Monday, Nov. 14. Check the full schedule of International Education Week activities for more information.