As part of the official visit of President Hu to Washington, First Lady, Michelle Obama spoke to a captivated audience at Howard University saying that when you go abroad, “you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world.” While Mrs. Obama was trying to promote a campaign to increase the number of students going to China, many of her comments are applicable to any cross cultural learning experience:
“…studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience. It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy. Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom. It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders — with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own.”
Last Spring, her husband, President Barack Obama, spoke to students at the University of Michigan saying: “As our world grows smaller, more connected. You will live and work with more people who don’t look like you, or think like you, or come from where you come from.” And almost in a response to these words by her husband, Mrs. Obama went on to say:
“That’s why it is so important for more of our young people to live and study in each other’s countries. That’s how, student by student, we develop that habit of cooperation, by immersing yourself in someone else’s culture, by sharing your stories and letting them share theirs, by taking the time to get past the stereotypes and misperceptions that too often divide us.
That’s how you build that familiarity that melts away mistrust. That’s how you begin to see yourselves in one another and realize how much we all share, no matter where we live. ”
CFHI programs have always focused on immersion into a culture, into a different helathcare system. Rather than staging impressive extraordinary displays for students, CHFI’s Global Health Immersion Programs give students a real slice of life, giving the participant and authentic experience of what it is like to be a health professional in that country. Some days may be very low key, other days in a hospital may be overwhelming. Regardless of the program, the bonds that students have made with professionals, with host families and with each other are very strong and lasting.