Sunday, April 28, 2013

Want a Better World? Talk to Your Neighbor.
MC Dinner, Washington and Lee University

It’s a small world, made even more compact by planes, trains and social media.  

CNN, Facebook and Twitter have changed the world view of people in every country and, as individuals, it is vital we acknowledge this new world view.  As CEO of an international exchange organization, I came across two articles that hit home as they articulated the importance and benefits from developing a commitment to a cause of importance to you and the world.

From the Beatles, “Ticket to Ride” to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”, there are numerous anthems to travel.  Americans love to travel as evidenced by the fact that one third of Americans have passports and more than six million live abroad. The most common answer I hear to the question why people travel is that they want to experience the difference… to see other cultures.

Americans, however, often lack in a global view of the world and overall awareness of current affairs and what is happening beyond our borders.  We experience acculturation with members of our families that immigrated and we readily celebrate and adapt their traditions as our own. I am sure we all relate to returning from our travels with the token mementos of the places we visited, or mouth watering recipes that we incorporate into culinary favorites.  That same interest in experiential learning, of immersing ourselves in another culture, seems to fade once we are settled back into our daily lives. - Cari E. Guittard Turn on the World News 
Do you know your neighbor?  With more than 40,000,000 internationals living in the U.S., not only is it as simple as turning on the World News to understand what is going on, it’s as easy as taking advantage of the opportunities in our own backyards.  Knowing your “neighbors”, the same ones that have lent their global talents to our economy, not only builds trust and safer communities as described by Philip Seib, but lends itself to once again embracing the differences and developing a network of diverse and culturally rich friendships.

There are endless opportunities and available resources, as close as our backyards, to learn more about the cultures of our neighbors and neighboring countries.  As stated in the articles and from my own experience;  

Commit by connecting:

1.       Engage with a smile and say hello.

2.       Ask questions and listen to your their insights.

3.       Immerse yourself in new cultures via world news and knowing your neighbors.

From our small corners of the world, embracing the concept of effective engagement on a global level can seem daunting, however, the steps are manageable and the results are rewarding.

Victoria Lynden.  I am the CEO and Founder of Alliance Abroad Group, an international exchange company based in Austin, TX.  I am dedicated to developing programs and services for people who would bring positive change in their communities in the United States and abroad.   I am a graduate student in Northwestern University's IMC program.  For questions or comments, I’m on twitter @VictoriaLynden.


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