Learning through immersion provides effective paths to original ideas
I graduated from a Catholic prep school where my Western civilization teacher once argued that there has not been an original thought since the ancient Greeks controlled the known world.
I find this rhetoric hard to believe. Not only because Greece’s geographical location and ethnic make-up are far from being strictly “Western,” but because the existence of indoor plumbing, electricity, antibiotics, the Internet and smartphones tells me there must have been an original thought in the 2,000 plus years since Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
I’m further convinced my old teacher’s thesis isn’t true, while walking from class to class on campus.
There are so many people from so many places, all hustling to that class or appointment, all striving to better themselves through the exposure to and comprehension of new ideas. Is it possible there can’t be an original thought among more than 40,000 students?
As students at a major university, we all carry the seeds of original thought. But the trick to unlocking those ideas lies in the exchange, in making a conscious choice to step outside of our comfort zone and interact with students and professors from different backgrounds and world outlooks. One of the best ways to do this is to learn a new language, culture and perspective through immersion.
According to “Immersion, Strategies for Survival,” a theory written by Georgetown University associate professor Guy Spielmann, learning through immersion forces one to “have to learn to become another person or, more exactly, to grow a second persona.”
Granted, having split cultural identities might shake your brain, causing an identity crisis in the short term and forcing you to lie on the big leather couch. But in the long term, it will be invaluable in the United States where by 2050, one in five people will be immigrants, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that, according to the 2009 U.S. census, statistics showed 20 percent of Americans “speak a language other than English at home.” However, the real percentage of bilingual Americans is higher because so many people communicate in a second language outside the home.
So America isn’t, as the rest of the world likes to pigeonhole us, completely English language centered. And as students, we hold the sledgehammer for smashing that stereotype. We can demonstrate our commitment to do so by choosing to develop multiculturalism through foreign language immersion.
If the idea of broadening your worldview and becoming bilingual through immersion entices you, I suggest you visit UA Global Initiatives to investigate what opportunities exist in studying abroad. If on the other hand, like me, you do not have the financial resources to study outside the U.S., consider creating your own immersion experience on campus by befriending international students, joining clubs whose missions have a multicultural perspective and attending events that advance non-Western ideas.
As globalization causes our world to shrink, the international borders are fading, the value of the ability to communicate in more than one language is growing exponentially. Unfortunately, Americans are sometimes taught to embrace a monolingual society, even suggesting that it is somehow patriotic.
As students at this university, it is quite possible this could be our only opportunity to live, study or work in such an extensive melting pot of culture, language and ideas.
If we choose to embrace this concept together, the UA could be a source for original thought in the 21st century.
-Matthew Casey is a journalism senior. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter via @matthewcasey3