By Carol Jenkins, CEO, World Learning Inc.
American philosopher, psychologist, progressive educational reformer, and Vermont native John Dewey once said: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” As true in Dewey’s lifetime from 1859 to 1952 as it is today in 2021, his words represent an enduring lesson and fundamental value for us at World Learning and School for International Training (SIT). Education, particularly through international exchange and cultural immersion, allows all of us around the world to experience life itself.
For this year’s International Education Week, it’s important to remember this everlasting value and its place within World Learning’s mission to build a more just and peaceful society. The world continues to face unprecedented challenges, from climate change, the pandemic, and global economic disparities to reckonings of social and racial justice and the fight for human rights. For there to be a world to learn about, and life to experience, we must continue to work together for its viability.
Indeed, this collective imperative requires cross-border understanding and intercultural collaboration and partnerships, be they in-person or online. Recently, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education, the agencies behind International Education Week, released a Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education emphasizing this imperative, and the role that international exchanges play in building international understanding.
“The robust exchange of students, researchers, scholars, and educators, along with broader international education efforts between the United States and other countries, strengthens relationships between current and future leaders,” the statement reads. “International education enhances cultural and linguistic diversity, and helps to develop cross-cultural communication skills, foreign language competencies, and enhanced self-awareness and understanding of diverse perspectives.”
These principles speak directly to our mission across our organization as we continue to send students around the world and welcome international students to the U.S., in-person and virtually, to experience life itself as they learn how to solve these pressing global issues within their chosen fields. These students immerse themselves in different cultures, exchange ideas, cross over language barriers, and absorb enlightening perspectives, each leading us all one step closer to a more just and peaceful society.
While much has altered the landscape of international exchange over the past few years, we’ve learned a lot about the power of technology as we expand the reach of our pioneer programs to diverse populations, further deepening our impact. Across World Learning and SIT, we continue to look ahead and harness powerful and positive technologies while we adapt our programs and devise meaningful strategies to address challenges to international exchange. Through it all, we remain committed to opening the doors to those ready to step into the world, and experience life itself.
Ultimately, international education and exchange cut to the core of what makes us human: to learn about and from one another, and to work together to solve the world’s most pressing issues. To learn, and to experience life itself, is to strive for a more peaceful and just world for all. Through International Education Week and beyond, we celebrate these enduring lessons and values as they guide us to a brighter future.