Something for Everyone: Learning about the World Abroad
Looking back to the beginning of my academic journey, as a burgeoning, bright-eyed undergraduate, I never would have predicted I would one day receive a master’s degree in Global and International Studies. As much as the topics of the international field currently stimulate my mind and nourish my sense of wonder and discovery, I was not born with a natural curiosity for international affairs. The path between then and now was indeed a very convoluted one, with twists, turns, surprises, drastic redirections, and cosmic intervention. I stumbled quite unexpectedly into the international field – an experience that many of you may relate to.
I took my first steps on my current path as a college freshman when I adopted linguistics as my primary course of study. Contrary to popular belief, many academic linguists appreciate language structure and data more than learning to speak languages themselves, and I was very much this way. I began learning Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, and a smattering of others. My pattern-centric, formulaic brain was having a field day, stripping language of its cultural context to study its underlying mechanisms and systematic functions. Eventually, I began studying historical linguistics, which tracked development and change within language over time. It was through this program that I first heard about a study abroad opportunity that would tour the museums of Europe to study artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. The destination that perked up my ears, however, was the opportunity to see the Rosetta Stone in person in the British Museum. I was sold; as I delved into my field, I was itching for opportunities to interface with language in fresh contexts.
On this study abroad, I did indeed see the Rosetta Stone with my own eyes – took a picture, too. But what I have only recognized in retrospect is that this experience was the first time I began to appreciate culture. I was thousands of miles away from home to learn more about ancient languages, but what I actually got was international food that expanded my palette, cultural contact that stimulated my intellect, historical context that enriched my understanding, and life-changing experiences that uncovered the wonders and beauty of the world abroad.
It was from this point that I began to see my study of language as a cultural endeavor rather than a mathematical one. Over the next several years, my Hebrew studies evolved into lessons on Israeli culture, political climate, social issues, international relations, education systems, religious practices, and more. Eventually, I transferred to the University of Kansas to receive a Global and International Studies degree – what a whirlwind!
If I learned one principle through my experiences, it would be this: In Global and International Studies a lot of people feel pressured to know everything there is to know about the world, to be completely kept up with all current events, to grapple with every international issue, or to interface with every culture. However, sometimes our global perspective just naturally grows from a single interest in something beyond your own backyard, whether it be cooking, language, trade, politics, sports, fashion, history, art, etc. It’s all about finding a starting point.
Even if you don’t know everything, don’t speak a second language, have never travelled, or feel like the world abroad is beyond your understanding, there’s something for everyone to learn, and it just starts with one step. It will take you somewhere, I promise.
About the Author Rachel Hogan is a master’s student at the University of Kansas, studying Global and International Studies. Her previous degree was in Linguistics and modern Hebrew, where she researched language documentation and revitalization for dead and dying language. Her current research emphasis examines the characteristics, practices, policies, and effectiveness of Jewish and Arab education and testing systems in Israel. Rachel finds particular joy in the classroom, where she can either explore or teach the curiosities that human existence has to offer. Previously, she has taught modern Hebrew, historical linguistics, and globalization classes. Beyond academia, she has worked for an immigration company and as a tour guide for an ancient Jewish tabernacle replica. In the future, she hopes to continue her education through a doctorate program and, ultimately, wants to work as a professor. When she is not working, researching, or attending classes, Rachel enjoys playing basketball, reading nonfiction, and going on road trips.