My daughter, Eve, a junior at Penn State, is studying abroad in London this semester. Then, after a short break, she will travel to Tanzania where she will be spending the summer fulfilling some of the requirements for her minor in global health. These experiences reflect the kinds of wonderful opportunities made available to students by Penn State.
Eve is an international development major. The courses she is taking in London all focus on the many challenges that face developing countries and populations. For example, her course in International Health and Human Rights focuses on the dimensions of various health care systems around the world, including issues such as mental health, maternal health, nutritional regulations, food advertising, immunizations, the right to an abortion, and the role of human rights to facilitate access to the basic elements of medical care. One memorable class period, she said, was devoted to viewing a documentary film called “Breaking the Chains.” The film memorialized a common practice in Indonesia known aspasung, which involves the use of chains, cages and physical abuse to restrain those who live with a psychiatric disability, like schizophrenia. In another course, Leading Across Cultures and Practices, Eve and her colleagues discuss the qualities that make up a great leader and how leadership styles differ among varying cultures. They have focused on the concept of intercultural leadership styles and the challenges associated with the leadership of a political body whose members have conflicting expectations as to the manner and approach of a successful leader.
Eve is also taking a class on London’s grand architecture, with an emphasis on how the city was rebuilt after the great fire of 1666, which destroyed 75% of the structures. Much of the restoration and new building was done under the direction of Christopher Wren and Indigo Jones. The students have viewed and discussed the many styles of architecture now on display in London, which reflect the great mix of nationalities and cultures at play in the city. Another class that Eve takes examines English politics and the media. The students discus the extent to which the English media plays a role in informing and molding English political thought and opinions. Finally, Eve and her classmates are having a ball studying the music and fashion of the British youth culture beginning in the 1950s. They are learning how the youth movements over the past 70 years have been a reflection of wider political or social movements at play in English society.
Although Eve hits the books during the week, interspersed with regular visits to London’s infinite number of wonderful ethnic restaurants, classes are scheduled so that the students can visit enchanting cities like Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Florence and Prague over the weekends. This exposure to some of the world’s most historic metropolises with some of the world’s greatest art and culture is all part of Eve’s intellectual and personal growth this semester, thanks to these opportunities offered to her by Penn State.
Eve’s summer in Tanzania will foster a different type of personal growth, which is certainly as important as what she is experiencing now in London. Her time in Tanzania will focus on learning about what diseases and health disparities exist in developing countries, the root causes of those problems, and if and how they are being addressed. While international aid usually plays an important role in developing countries in combating disease, Eve is learning that foreign health aid providers must understand that a third world country’s culture may give rise to obstacles and setbacks to the provision of assistance because that aid runs counter to important cultural norms. As Eve makes her way around Tanzania, shadowing doctors in various medical settings, she will witness the critical care being provided by the indigenous medical system as well as foreign aid providers. She will also gain an understanding of the barriers and gaps in health care in Tanzania.
I am proud of Eve for taking advantage of these unique opportunities in her chosen field of study and for broadening her intellectual and cultural horizons. My professional life also involves international development, and I remember well the advancement in my own maturation process brought about by exposure and immersion in different cultures.
Thank you, Penn State! We Are!