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 that I sit on and marinate. Many go sour, but when something sticks with me like this 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 want to do what I want to do and be who I am without worrying about what others think. I want to give quality time, cultivate quality relationships, commit to excellent quality work, eat the best 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; I want quality. I don’t want to be another cog in the wheel of life—I want to have courage to make a difference in people’s lives and in this world. The only way is to become who I really am, by saying what I want to say (I’m a big fan of Say by John Mayer) and what I believe.
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, that brings in a lot of money, but is it really working for education? Is it really “educating” students or is it just 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. It’s not a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s ideal.
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, if that’s what we’re trying to accomplish with study abroad. Is it? Or is it not? The Study Abroad Map will “explode” the quality difference that will help demonstrate students’ international studies and experiences as credible and valuable to employers when it comes time to graduate and look for a job.
Quality is a result of thought. We are taught by the marketplace to react by feeling and buy, rather than respond by thinking and make. It’s the world we live in; people don’t like to think or spend time making, especially young people. 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 it differently. Do you really want to lose a $100+ for that little feature that you probably won’t even 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. So you can guess where I’ll be spending my time the rest of this year: hanging out with my kids, writing a top 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 waste, and the more we understand about how we want to spend it.