From Avid Traveler to Local Advocate
Seeing how travel has transformed my own life drives me to encourage others to experience the life-changing, horizon-broadening gift that is travel abroad. My hope is that as many people as possible can discover how strong, inventive, curious and capable they truly are by spending time in a culture that isn’t their own.
Perhaps growing up in East Tulsa and only traveling as far as Parsons, Kansas to see my grandparents (and once all the way to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas) drove me to spread my wings when I was older. Perhaps it was the “Bolshevik looking” boyfriend I had in college that had something to do with my curiosity about the world. Perhaps it’s my struggle with sitting still. Or maybe it’s a desire to enjoy the sites, smells and FOOD found around the world. Most likely it’s a combination of all of the above that has turned me into an avid traveler. Whenever I’m home a bit too long, I get claustrophobic and I simply must grab my passport and go.
Unsurprisingly, I chose a profession that allows me to travel abroad frequently. As a professor and former dean of international studies, I’ve had the amazing fortune to travel to nearly 60 countries across the globe. I haven’t yet landed on every continent, but I’m working on it! And I’m always planning my next trip, whether for business or pleasure. Abroad feels like home to me.
Being an avid traveler has improved my life in myriad ways. I’ve learned to be comfortable in cultures different from my own. In turn, my curiosity about other ways of life gives me a greater appreciation for diversity at home. I’ve learned how to communicate just about anything with body language and hand gestures, which pays dividends when I’m challenged to a game of charades. My global experiences have forced me to hone my critical thinking and problem-solving skills and to become a more flexible person capable of overcoming daily obstacles. The persistence and grit that result from traveling abroad are tremendous rewards.
Seeing how travel has transformed my own life drives me to encourage students and others to experience the life-changing, horizon-broadening gift that is travel abroad. Having worked closely with OU students going overseas and international students coming to Norman for years, and having developed and maintained centers for international education in Italy, Brazil and Mexico, I will always advocate for student access to the world.
But I also realize, and perhaps thanks to a global pandemic, just how global our local world really is. COVID-19 has opened my eyes to the ways in which local communities can and should respond to global crises. For me it has brought to life the phrase “think globally, act locally.” It has also encouraged me to think creatively about how to find and interact with various cultures right here in my own neighborhood. And thanks to technology, we are just a few clicks away from connecting with others around the world. I may not be jumping on an airplane to travel the globe any time soon, but I have definitely learned how to turn my global vision into local action.
My hope is that as many people as possible can discover how strong, inventive, curious and capable they truly are by spending time abroad, or engaging with their international communities in a more local setting. And if, by sharing the passion and expertise I have developed as an avid traveler, I can help that happen, then this journey of hundreds of thousands of miles will be well worth the effort!