More than 100 countries across the world come together in celebration of International Education every November. International Education Week (IEW), organized by the U.S. Department of State and Education, helps promote programs that encourage Americans to study abroad, prepares them for international exchanges, and invites global leaders to get involved with exchange programs. IEW encourages better international relations and understanding of different cultures. Mobile, Alabama is one of the many cities in the U.S. that holds events to celebrate IEW, which is November 16th-22nd this year. The annual Mobile International Festival (MIF) will be open to the public on November 22nd and the University of South Alabama’s Office of International Education (OIE) is holding an on campus event, showcasing USA’s Study Abroad programs, on Nov. 19th.
Before IEW kicks off, we wanted to interview a special guest and highlight their global experiences and showcase why they believe International Education is so valuable. Dr. Husain, born in Pakistan, is a professor of all things international studies at USA, with a Ph. D. in International Relations. He has achieved many degrees, ranging from a B.A. in Economics, Political Science, and International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s degree in both Political Science and International Relations. Throughout his college career, he fulfilled roles as a Teaching Assistant and Director of the Undergraduate International Relations program at the University of Pennsylvania and as a guest speaker for the International Classroom Program, the Speaker’s Bureau, the College-University Program and the World Affairs of Philadelphia. After seeing a tenure-track position available that involved teaching International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Middle East Politics at USA, Dr. Husain decided Alabama was next. At USA he has taught 33 courses, including, but not limited to, Global Issues, American Foreign Policy, Third World Politics, International Political Economy, and Seminar on Terrorism. Dr. Husain states, “Since teaching is one of the best ways to learn, I consider myself truly blessed that South gave me the opportunity to greatly expand my intellectual horizons.”
“Travel is one of the best forms of education.”
A former study abroader himself, Dr. Husain claims that “travel is one of the best forms of education.” He received his A.A. degree in Lugano, Switzerland, fulfilled a French requirement in a 3-month program in Paris, studied abroad at the University of Pennsylvania, and, just recently, received the Fulbright Teaching Grant and taught undergraduate and graduate International Relations courses in Egypt. Dr. Husain comments that by studying abroad, “Students learn how to understand and speak another language (with proper pronunciation) sooner. Students develop invaluable life and social skills that help them find a satisfying career. They become more independent, adaptable, patient, cosmopolitan, and mature because interacting with people from all walks of life abroad provides a sense of perspective that is integral to a more meaningful life.” Besides the personal growth students can experience from studying abroad, he mentions that “graduate schools and employers prefer applicants who have travelled abroad and [are more worldly] than their peers.” He also says that “According to reliable statistics, this significantly increases the prospect of getting into [your first or second choice university abroad, with a work-study or partial scholarship].”
India, Sri Lanka, U.S., Egypt, and Europe only name a few of the places he has travelled to. His favorite cultural immersion experience was in Cairo, Egypt, where he lived overlooking the Nile River, taught the future leaders of Egypt, lived in the desert for six days, studied Arabic, and much more. “I was also reminded of how fortunate I am, when I visited a part of Old Cairo where some Cairenes live in graveyards. I had witnessed absolute poverty and gross inequality in South Asia, but people living with the dead, I had never seen,” Dr. Husain recalls. Travelling has a way of opening your eyes, expanding your mind and providing you with new perspectives you never previously imagined.
Understanding other cultures
When asked why it is essential to understand other cultures, lifestyles and politics, Dr. Husain remarks, “gaining an understanding of other cultures and politics thwarts the fear and decreases the chance of misunderstanding others.” He adds, “Indeed, fear, conflict, war and terrorism stem from ignorance and a lack of communication, which leads to ethnocentrism and hypernationalism.” In a shocking statistic, Dr. Husain says that “due to global interdependence, it is imperative for Americans, who make up only 4% of the world’s 7 billion people, to study a wide spectrum of countries in order to [better understand the world and prepare to formulate and implement successful domestic and foreign policies].” At this year’s Mobile International Festival, with booths for 56 countries, cuisine from over 31 countries, and entertainment from over 20 countries, there are high hopes that it will encourage greater cultural understanding and global relations. Dr. Husain, MIF attendee for 28 years, excitedly remarks that visitors “will get this unique and wonderful global experience at the Civic Center in downtown Mobile [to travel around the world for only $16, plus any food or cultural items, all on the same day].”