Tag Archives: study abroad

The Cultural Danger Of Covid-19: A Devolution Of Intellectual Progress


By William A. Foster, IV

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” – Will Rogers

I am rarely one who likes to write qualitative pieces over quantitative ones, but for the moment I am going to make an exception. I can give you numbers about how the economy is suffering and is going to continue to suffer for the foreseeable future. I could give you the number of cases, deaths, lack of PPE numbers, and percentage of overworked medical and essential workers. I could go on and on and on with numbers, I am economist after all, but here is the reality of all those numbers – they are bad, real bad, and will be bad for sometime to come. Instead, what I would like to discuss is an acute qualitative cultural loss we may potentially experience and perhaps give us an opportunity to think about what this very new world could look like that we are about to embark upon if we are not proactive in maintaining a core essence of our humanity.

The world we are entering will be far more online and far more physically distanced from each other both on a micro level and global macro one. Everything from work, school, and socializing. Many would argue that online college is the way of the future. This maybe true, but people forget one of the most critical components of college in person is the social aspect, the relationship building that simply can not currently be replicated online. A few decades ago, I was a freshmen at Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC and there I would meet my three best friends that I am sure will be that for the rest of my life. Our meeting was happenstance. None of us had the same major, personality, or interest. We called ourselves the Variety Pack because nothing about us was alike, but alas, we found each other, bonded, and formed a brotherhood that has stood the test of time. For all the differences of course, two of us did share the same Algebra/Trigonometry class. The class was an 8AM class and the pain of getting up for it when you are not a morning person can not be overstated in my case. However, myself and Rashad, the one of the said Variety Pack with whom I had the ungodly morning class with, loved to sit up and debate theology many nights. Rashad was/is a devout Christian. I on the other hand am something of a spiritual nomad you might say, but am fascinated by the intellectual aspect of religion. One particular night in our dorm hallway we got into one of our intense discussions and the hours clearly raced by because before we knew it the sun was rising. Sleep? Forget about it. We both agreed we would get ready and meet for breakfast and try our best to stay up through class. Moments like these and many more are what built our bond and there is simply no way to replace it online. People from different backgrounds meeting, sharing an experience, bonding, learning from each other, evolving, and developing their understanding of the world.

Simply put, COVID-19 has the potential of sending us back to the dark ages in terms of cultural evolution and development. Thousands of students who study abroad every year will no longer get to do so. Student exchanges, especially from China and Asia in general, will be looked at with heavy skepticism if considered at all. Americans, who are already known to be culturally hubris and inept, often failing to travel much and experience culture even within the United States will be even more isolated. Tourism and vacations that allow us to experience distant lands and bring back with us new ideas will be vastly reduced. Academic tourism for professors who may themselves spend time as visiting professors at different universities will be greatly hampered. Cultural developments like fusion cuisines from different parts of the world will retrench and much more will simply begin to deteriorate. The rise of intellectual incest, a term I use when someone or an institution is only receiving ideas from the same petri dish of thought. If a student receives all of their degrees for instance from the same institution, this would be an example of intellectual incest. Because the world is now going to shrink itself in an effort to protect itself, there is a unknown danger that may start to form. We have seen the world where people are exposed to different cultures, ideas, and ways of life and we have seen a world where people are isolated and xenophobia forms out of it.

The danger that we become a less tolerant, less compassionate, less understanding, and less intellectually evolved is a real possibility that could have far reaching societal implications for future generations. In a world where terroristic nationalism has been on the rise in far too many countries, COVID-19 may give many the “pass” they have been looking for to justify retrenching from a world that was evolving and developing towards efficiency of its intellect. Sharing best practices the world over is something we need more of and not less. This is by no means to say we were in Utopia. I do not believe in Utopia and not sure I would I enjoy living in it. Conflict has its place within measure in a society. Disagreement has its place within measure in a society. My Global Economic Environment professor, Dr. Catherine Mann, taught me years ago in business school that if you do not truly understand your opposition’s position, then you can not truly understand your own. To this day she is one of the most brilliant and wisest people I have ever met and there is an acute truth in what she said. How does one know their position is best if they have nothing to compare it with? Plan A maybe good, but an objective view of Plan B may allow it to have tweaks made to it that can make it great or perhaps it is Plan AB that is great. Without that engagement, we will be taking steps back in the interactions that create evolution and development of thought.

I am not sure when we will come out of this state we are in and I am not sure how we will be when we do. What I do know is that fear can drives even the fiercest animals into hiding and that fear for humans could undo hundreds of years of intellectual progress. Great ideas will become fewer and farther apart if that is true. The grand ideas of humanity like cleaning up pollution, reaching Mars and beyond, eliminating poverty, and so many more will take hundreds of years longer to accomplish than they otherwise would have. Yes, the world has forever changed and we will have to interact with each other differently, but make no mistake about it, we must continue to interact. Can you imagine a world where peanut butter never met jelly? Neither can I and I do not want too.

10 Twitter Accounts To Follow If You Want To Be A Global HBCU Citizen


“A little exposure to a city like Sulaimani will help Trump understand that the Middle East is a much more complex place than he seems to believe. Perhaps Trump could even give a speech at the American University in Sulaimani, just as President Obama did at Cairo University early in his first term.” – Peter Bergen

Today, more and more HBCU students and alumni are embracing the passport. Traveling abroad has become even more of a priority as a mixture of factors that range from value being placed on experiences over material possessions, heightened frustration with the cultural climate in the US, and simply more exposure to the benefits. Beyond travel, more than a few HBCU alumni have become expats and taking careers abroad opening a whole new world of opportunity. Whether one chooses to travel or work abroad, we are now in a world where having a global perspective is paramount.

How does one go about learning how to understand the world from truly global perspective? The most sure fire way is to read and consume perspectives from around the world. This is not to be confused with reading about the world from only a US perspective. That is to say, reading about East Africa on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox is vastly different than reading about East Africa from an actual East African publication.

As such, we have comprised ten Twitter account can get you on the road to truly becoming the HBCU global citizen who not only trek’s the world, but understands its intricacies.

@OurWorldInData

  •  An online publication that presents empirical research and data that show how living conditions around the world are changing. The web publication on global development uses interactive data visualisations (charts and maps) to present the research findings on development that explain the causes and consequences of the observed changes. (Wikipedia)

@The_EastAfrican

  • The EastAfrican is circulated in Kenya and the other countries of the African Great Lakes region, including Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. It contains stories and in-depth analysis from each country in the region, in addition to international stories. (Wikipedia)

@ChinaDailyUSA

  • A Beijing, China based paper that is considered one of China’s more liberal news outlets, like almost all media in the country is state run. Its importance can not be understated as it is one of many vessels of communication for the world’s number two superpower and its views.

@ForeignAffairs

  • An American magazine of international relations and U.S. foreign policy published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. (Wikipedia)

@IanBremmer

  • The president and founder of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. He is credited with bringing the craft of political risk to financial markets—he created Wall Street’s first global political risk index (GPRI)—and for establishing political risk as an academic discipline. His definition of emerging markets—“those countries where politics matters at least as much as economics for market outcomes”—has become an industry standard. “G-Zero,” his term for a global power vacuum in which no country is willing and able to set the international agenda, is widely accepted by policymakers and thought leaders. (Eurasia Group)

@SecurityScholar

  • Natalie Sambhi is a Research Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre where she publishes on Indonesian foreign and defence policy as well as Southeast Asian security. She was most recently an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) from 2012 to 2016 and Managing Editor of ASPI’s blog, The Strategist. She worked previously at the Department of Defence and University of Canberra. (Security Scholar)

@Ipeaonline

  • The (Brazilian) think tank’s main goals are the following evaluate and propose essential public policies and programs to improve the social, economic and structural development of the country; formulate prospective studies to guide development strategies for medium and long-term outcomes; assist the Brazilian federal government in its aim to improve the efficiency of its decisions; and contribute to the improvement of the public debate related to the country’s development endeavors and government actions. (Ipea.gov)

@ChathamHouse

  • The Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. (Wikipedia)

@JapanTimes

  • The Japan Times was launched by Motosada Zumoto on March 22, 1897, with the goal of giving Japanese an opportunity to read and discuss news and current events in English to help Japan to participate in the international community. (Wikipedia)

@NatGeo

  • Often forgotten as an aspect of global and international affairs, geography plays a significant role in the way countries, nations, and cultures interact with each other. This publication gives insight to geography, culture, and nature that shape many nations.

Connect with us on Twitter at @HBCUMoney and let us know what you are reading to help shape your global world.

 

Living & Teaching Abroad: Xavier University (LA) Alumna Britney Francis Conquers Beijing


There has been a recent revelation in the past five years that African Americans need to get out and explore the world. The passport has become the new IT thing to have among African America’s young and educated. Adding to that reality is that more and more college students must set themselves apart in a more competitive global workforce. One sure way to do that is to show that you have the ability to go anywhere and be successful, especially if it means going some place out of your comfort zone. If adding tools to your tool chest is what sets you apart, then studying abroad during your undergraduate years gives you one mean hammer to swing. It also presents some amazing career opportunities upon graduation if you are willing to take the chance. HBCU Money caught up with Britney Francis, an alumna of Xavier University (LA), who is conquering the classroom in the capital of arguably the world’s number two superpower – China.

How did the opportunity arise for you to live and teach in Beijing, China?

By May 2016, I was unfulfilled, disillusioned and dissatisfied with life, particularly with my job. I had also been going through a health issue that had been going on for nearly 3 years at the time. Feeling like I needed real change, I was inspired by a friend from high school who had gotten a teaching job in Dubai. I had started to come around to the idea of teaching, and had started studying to test for an acceleration program that helps people become teachers — who had degrees in other specialties besides education. I had my sights set on becoming a high school history teacher in Houston. I had also been mentoring kids at the juvenile justice center and felt it was time to get into the classroom to find other ways to reach the youth. So I figured, “hey — maybe I can also teach abroad particularly next year or the following year”. I thought I would do myself a service by gaining experience in the States before taking the show abroad. I was interested in Japan and started to do research. For some reason, it seemed much harder to get to Japan (which wasn’t true but you don’t know what you don’t know). Then I started to see posts from China. After researching for a few weeks on various job boards, I came across a job ad for an education company called Education First, based in China. What made me pull the trigger was getting written up at my job for performance issues (and my health stuff, if you wanna keep it a buck. My manager had told me that all I had been going through was “impacting the business” – whatever that means). I was so bored and disgusted; the place was no doubt a dead-end job. My work and my health continued to suffer and I was listening to podcasts at my desk all day… anything to escape. I had applied at a charter school at the recommendation of a friend. I had written an elaborate essay but received a response almost immediately saying they would “keep my application on file”. Something inside me told me to change a few of the words around and apply to the same company I had seen in China days before. So I did, and by the end of that week I had the job and was set to arrive in Beijing by September. PERFECT timing!

How do you believe going to an HBCU and XULA in particular prepared you for being an expatriate?

One thing I always say is that being HBCU alum prepared me for life in a way I feel no other school could have. I learned so much about myself at my HBCU and my sense of Black pride strengthened. Being a Xavier student during the year Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city of New Orleans is what particularly made me strong. It made all of us strong. We had faith in our school and returned to the city five months after the storm hit. Houses were destroyed, there was mold everywhere. The city was crippled and the students/admin kept it pushing. Hell, all schools in the NOLA area did the same thing. Most of us that returned after the storm have graduated and have moved on to do great things in our lives.

Living in a place like China where most people you encounter are ignorant and inherently racist, I feel that what I’ve experienced prior to now gave me tough skin. But not to say it’s the all bad. For every ignorant person, there are a million more kind, giving, and helpful people here as well. The mindset, cultural and societal norms here are SOOO different.

As an educator, what are some differences and conversely similarities you have noticed between the education systems of China in comparison to the United States?

Being that my teaching experience is only limited to my time here in China I can’t speak too much on the American side as I haven’t seen it from the eyes of a teacher. But I will say that certain teaching methods I’ve tried to use on my older students were frowned upon, especially in instances where I tried to make my classes fun (for my high school students). Things that I know worked for me as a student or methods I’ve researched can sometimes be overridden as you’re expected to adapt to the “Chinese way” and not have much say-so in the matter.

Chinese students don’t have lives of your typical American teenager. They are groomed to study 7 days a week and get LOADS of homework. On weekends, they study, sleep and play on their computers. They don’t have social lives, and hardly date. Emphasis is placed on math and science more than other subject areas. And I’ve found that most parents here will pressure their kids to be successful, to the point where they are depressed and often unsure of themselves. I’ve even had parents ask me “how can my son/daughter be better?” with an overall class score of 99 and rated highest in the entire class. On the other side, there’s also a bit of denial when it comes to things like learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.

Do you have a favorite memory thus far in your time there?

Most of my favorite memories involve my students, present and old. Children are so amazing and smart and I’ve become emotionally attached to nearly all of my students. It’s very hard saying goodbye to students when new opportunities arise and it’s time to move on to a new school (or they move on to a new school). My other favorite memories involve all the friends I’ve made here and especially the trips I’ve taken. Living here has afforded me opportunities to travel that I didn’t have before and it’s been amazing. So far, I’ve been to Thailand, S. Korea, Hong Kong, and a few interesting cities around China. I have so many other places to see before I pack up and head back home.

Being African-American in China, what has that particular part of the experience been like for you?

Honestly, it can be a bit frustrating. It can go either two ways: either people are deathly afraid of you or WAY too curious/friendly/unable to respect boundaries. Being Black in China, you can expect people to take pictures of you without your permission. It’s cute at first – until after you’ve been here a few months, you had a long day at work and just trying to get home to your bed. Seeing someone sneaking a picture of you like you’re a zoo exhibit can be angering. Also, people don’t have concepts of boundaries and personal space. With there being 20+ million people in bigger cities, there’s not much room for you to breathe and people like to touch your hair or try to rub your skin to see if the black comes off. I try not to fault most people for it because they are conditioned and they simply don’t know much about the world outside of China. They also assume any black person they see is from Africa… and when you don’t know the language you can’t explain to them how the Diaspora works. It’s just a LOT of ignorance. For me personally, in work spaces and social spaces, I require respect from everybody I interact with, language barrier be damned. It’s the only way I can cope with what goes on around here.

We know you can not prepare for everything prior to living abroad, but is there something you wish you had known in particular prior to your move?

No. Besides bringing enough black hair care products and make-up that matches your tone to last you a while, there’s nothing I think I could have been told prior that would have made much of a difference. Everyone’s experience is different. You could ask another person to talk about their experiences and they may LOVE it here, or hate it with their entire being. I like that I was given the opportunity to come here and be out of my comfort zone. Everything I’ve learned about myself and the world thus far has only enhanced my personal growth. I am a different person than I was in September 2016 and I can only continue to soar from here. I’m still very happy about my decision to move here.

Tell us about one of your fondest HBCU memories while at XULA?

Graduation day. Enough said.

Britney Francis is an English teacher from southern Louisiana by way of Houston, TX. She has a bachelors degree in Communications from Xavier University of Louisiana, with a concentration in public relations and speech communication. She is currently working as a kindergarten teacher in Beijing, China. She is passionate about travel, sports, and children’s causes.

Follow her experiences via Twitter at @britneyisland