A month ago, I woke up with the word “quality” in my brain (from “qualis” which means “how constituted, of what sort, of what nature, what kind of a”). I get a lot of ideas, but when something sticks with me and starts to mature, it’s like a tsunami that finds its way into all the areas of my life. I’m tired of just being busy. I long to dedicate quality time, cultivate quality relationships, commit to quality work, eat quality food, become the quality human being that I was born to be, and live a quality lifestyle. It doesn’t matter to me anymore how many things I can do or how many places I can see before I die; only quality. I don’t want to be another cog in the wheel of lifeI want to have courage to make a difference in people’s lives and in this world. 

A few months ago, I was speaking with an academic dean, who was telling me that the president charged his university with increasing the number of students who study abroad. This seems to be trendy among presidents, and it’s great when it translates into a bigger budget that makes it happen. I was also thinking about Generation Study Abroad, an IIE campaign to have a whopping 600,000 U.S. students studying abroad by the end of the decade. It’s mind-boggling how far the field has come since I started in the year 2000 and just how much we’ve moved from education to commercialization. Study abroad is big business, but is it really education? Is it really “educating” students or is it a chic diversion from regular college life that allows students to travel and vacation more easily? No doubt, many students spend every weekend traveling to see a new city within their reach by train or budget airline. Their focus, too, is quantity.

I created StudyAbroadMap.com in November, with a vague notion of quality on my mind, and now it’s taking on personality and form. We will expose, unearth, bolster, enhance, enlarge, intensify, invigorate, reinforce, strengthen the QUALITY of study abroad and international education programs with our voice and our friends. Most employers and educators would agree that students hanging out with other American students in another country, partying their nights away, traveling somewhere new every weekend, and providing cash to their home institutions isn’t all that valuable to developing global competence. It takes the right experience and the right attitude to make intercultural learning and global citizenship a possibility.In time, the Study Abroad Map will emphasize the quality difference in international studies and experiences.

We have been taught by the marketplace to react by feeling, rather than respond by thought. Every time a new Wii or DS comes out, my son wants to sell his old one and buy the new one, and I’m constantly trying to make him think about the market differently. Do you really want to lose a $100+ for that little feature that you probably won’t use? I wouldn’t! The smart kid is buying your stuff at a discount while you’re get suckered into the idea that you need more. 

Guess where I’ll be spending my time the rest of this year? Hanging with my kids, writing a quality memoir, working on quality international education projects, getting some good quality food and exercise, finding an awesome quality job to commit my time and energy to anywhere in the United States, opening my mind, and improving the quality of my life. There are good things about aging. The older we get, the less time we have to make our lives, and the more we understand about how we want to spend it.