Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

It’s a small world …until you travel abroad


Building walls, defining borders, banning people — America’s current president-elect sounds more like that one child in kindergarten who refused to let you join a soccer game rather than our nation’s future commander-in-chief.

The height of the 2016 election, Trump’s win and nationalist ideals are what I was greeted with coming back home after spending the past summer abroad in Europe. After blissful months of experiencing new languages, food, music, lifestyles and people, the election was a drastic— and aggressive—contrast to the life I had been living.

The only similarity of the election season to my time abroad was in late June when Brexit, a referendum that passed for Britain to leave the European Union, went down. I met two Brits in Greece a few days after the referendum passed. Exasperatedly, they begged, “Please don’t think all of us are closed-minded…Nobody thought this (Brexit) was actually going to happen.”

I and many other Americans can relate.

While knowing one’s roots and finding pride in a hometown, state, or country can be a big part of who somebody is, it doesn’t justify having a xenophobic mindset. It’s important that people not only push themselves out of their comfort zone, but also try to be accepting of what exists beyond it. What better time to hone this skill than to study abroad in college?

According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a nonprofit organization for international education professionals, the number of U.S. students who participated in study abroad grew to over 310,000, about 1.5 percent of the total U.S. student population, in the 2014-2015 academic year — an overall increase of 2.9 percent from the prior year. Of these students, 16,605 were from Texas universities.

Study abroad does have a diversity issue though.

Of the 310,000+ students who traveled abroad, 72.9 percent of them were Caucasian. Second are Hispanic students with 8.8 percent and third are Asian/Pacific Islander students with 8.1 percent. And as for host regions, Europe was reported as the most popular destination for study-abroad students. Of all the study abroad students in the 2014-2015 academic year, 40 percent of them traveled to only four countries: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France. Latin America came in second; Asia in third.

But, one problem at a time.

According to the Student Youth & Travel Association (STYA), the second largest social impact of students who studied internationally at 74 percent was an “increase of tolerance of other cultures and ethnicities.” The first being a desire to travel more (no surprise there).

Universities that push their students to expand their worldviews not only in the classroom, but also abroad, can lead to students having a better sense of self and appreciation for diverse cultural environments.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder— “Absence” being studying abroad and “fonder” being more acceptable and open-minded attitudes among college students.

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