The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Get Up Get Out: The Importance of International Travel in Today’s World

Mark Bland was tired. He’d been lugging his bags for five miles down the streets of Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, with no money and nowhere to stay. It was 1 a.m. He and his buddy were tired and hungry from traveling all the way from Sydney. They had shared a sandwich that day and had not slept at all.

Finally, they reached a hostel. Instead of relief, Bland’s red flags went up. At home in South Africa, hostels mean you can get stabbed in the middle of the night and your money stolen. Hostels are budget-oriented accommodations around the world where travelers, often student backpackers, can stay for cheap, usually in bunk beds with numerous roommates of mixed gender.

Bland took his chances and ended up having the night of his life, bunking with 15 people from all over the world and riding a party bus to all the clubbing hot spots on the Gold Coast.

“It was one of the funnest times and best decisions I ever made,” said Bland, a 22-year-old who enrolled at SMU last year.

Bland, who studied for two years at the University of Cape Town, had just graduated high school in 2004 when he took the year off to see the world, exploring places like New Zealand, Malaysia, and Europe.

In an increasingly global world, it is important now more than ever that students see the world. Employers, SMU faculty, and students themselves say that travel provides irreplaceable opportunities for personal growth. They say that gaining a global perspective these days is essential because of an ever-changing and international job market.

Five hundred Mustangs participated in abroad programs last year. SMU recently broadened its mission to include more exotic locations like India, China, and Japan.

José Bowen, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, is excited for students to experience these remote places, which he says really change a person and force them outside of their comfort zone.

Statistics show that in 2007 only 16 percent of Americans owned passports, an increase of 12 million people since 1997. Yet John Zogby, a pollster, author, and lecturer who recently spoke at SMU, found that 42 percent of Americans aged 18-29 have passports.

In his book “The Way We’ll Be,” Zogby describes this group as the “First Globals.” He says they’re the first color-blind generation who possess a global perspective on everything from politics to music and fashion.

Susan Kress, director of SMU’s Study Abroad, believes travel is especially important for Americans because they often have a skewed view of the world and their role in it. Kress has been to more than 45 countries and says she knows firsthand how travel opens one’s mind.

“To truly learn something, the experience of it is going to give one a deeper sense of what’s going on,” said Kress, who spent two years after college in Malaysia with the Peace Corps. She decided to join after her first trip overseas, a year-long, study-abroad in Italy.

Travel makes a person curious, and way more interesting to themselves and others, Kress says, who has dual citizenship and owns a home in Costa Rica.

“Travel is a gift you give yourself that no ones else can take away,” said Kress, whose children also travel extensively and have dual citizenship.

There are many who say it is equally important for political leaders to be well-traveled. The media currently criticized Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for her lack of travel, saying her trip to Iraq in July 2007 was her first real overseas experience.

Some students say there are bigger issues to focus on in a presidential election than a candidate’s travel experience, although global understanding is important. Senior theater major Colby Peck is one of them.

“I’d hesitate to blame someone if they haven’t been abroad,” Peck said, who feels that a candidate can still empathize and understand global issues without traveling.

Even family vacations can provide that multicultural experience educators say students need to have. SMU Junior and California native, Brennan Fontana, has taken numerous fishing trips with his grandfather to places like Belize, Tahiti and Christmas Island where he experienced culture shock.

“The people there need food to survive and that’s it,” said Brennan, who focuses usually on skateboarding, lacrosse and the next big party.

Fontana tried to study at the London School of Economics last year but found out at the last minute that his credits wouldn’t transfer.

“I was frustrated,” said Fontana, an economics major and business minor who always wanted to study abroad. He said he had three friends who had the same problem getting business credits to transfer.

Bland, who is now an advertising major, said his travels helped him to decide what he wanted to do as a career. He says he came home more mature and ready to focus, while his friends who went straight to university ended up partying and failing their first year.

He thinks studying abroad is an excellent idea but that the unplanned experiences you get when you travel with no agenda are the best.

Peck studied in Orvieto, Italy through SMU. She says getting out of the country helped her with acting because it gave her more experiences and emotions to draw from. She thinks travel would benefit all students, no matter what their major.

“The more knowledge you can acquire the better,” said Peck, who has been on the SMU-in-Oxford trip, as well as visited other European countries with her family.

While Peck loves to travel, she understands that not everyone has the opportunity, time or money to make the costly trips overseas.

“In a perfect world would people would travel, but it’s not a perfect world,” Peck said.

Sometimes there is a negative reaction to Americans who don’t travel outside of the U.S.

Bland, who spends his days jotting down big business ideas, says he’s had too many Americans ask him ridiculous questions that show their ignorance. He says now he can’t help but stereotype Americans as having a very small view of the world.

“One time someone asked me how long it took me to learn their language,” Bland said. English is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages and is his native tongue. “Another time someone asked me how long it took to drive to South Africa.”

Some employers are becoming more adamant that their employees are well traveled. Kam Junejo, CEO of an international event production and live entertainment company, says some college graduates will need to look outside the U.S. to find work. Junejo spoke at SMU’s Work and Intern Panel seminar in late September.

Fontana sees Junejo’s point. He says that if he had to do it all over again he would study Chinese and International Business. He thinks it would be a great idea for SMU to set up an exchange program with a business school in China.

“Things are just booming over there,” said Fontana, who hopes to one day become an entrepreneur.

Susie Harvey, former president of an international hotel and tourism company, says job candidates must be well-traveled to work for her. Harvey, now retired and single and living in London, had to write off her top candidate for the position of president solely because he did not own a passport.

“The conversation ended there,” said Harvey, a self-proclaimed “spa junkie” who now spends her time taking interesting university courses at her leisure, traveling, and spa-ing in Thailand.

SMU senior advertising major Sarah Calodney spent the spring semester of her junior year at the University of Cape Town and says she encountered career opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

When she was there, she landed the position of Editorial Assistant at a high-profile fashion magazine with few questions asked. She attributes her good fortune to the fact that young, white, educated people are currently in demand in South Africa’s job market.

“There’s not a lot of red tape you have to go through,” said Calodney, who currently holds two high-profile internships in Dallas. She says wouldn’t haven gotten the jobs without her work experience abroad.

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