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For a 100% LSA/FSP Requirement

Globe.jpgHere’s an idea for improving the College: how about having Dartmouth become the first institution of higher learning in America to require that all undergraduates spend at least one term studying overseas? Currently 60% of students study abroad, an opportunity that is easier under the D-Plan than at semester schools. But what about the remaining 40%? Other than two-sport athletes whose seasons overlap three terms (hockey-playing shortstops?), all students should spend time learning to thrive in a foreign environment. (Club Med doesn’t count.)

This idea is not about languages, though that’s as good an excuse as any to do an overseas program. After all, most people around the world with whom you interact will speak at least a little English — and besides, even if you acquire some Mandarin, as the world’s population closes in on seven billion people, you will at best share a language with only one seventh of humanity.

Living abroad is about gaining the confidence to show up any place on earth and, after having done your homework, possess the ability to convince the local people that you appreciate and want to learn more about their culture (because you really want to do so!). If you can learn to show curiosity, listen, read body language, modulate your speech, and show an openness to the foods and habits of other nations, then you will have a leg up on other folks who are stepping off a plane for the first time. I do business in about 30 countries, and believe me, real understanding and trust do not begin to develop until you have had a good meal with your local contact, and shown that you are sincerely interested in an out-of-the way restaurant, a hard-to-find specialty, and the fate of the national soccer team.

Educational progress of this type has been absent at the College for many years. As I observed recently, Dartmouth needs leadership to improve the overall student experience in Hanover and beyond. As the old Korean saying goes: Life is like a bicycle, if you don’t keep peddling, you fall over.

Note: My relationship with my Japanese distributor and his staff really clicked when I noticed that our hotel restaurant had a tank filled with live shrimp. “Do they serve ebi odori [dancing shrimp] here?” I inquired. But that is a story for another day.

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