Hello from the UR Study Abroad program in Arezzo, Italy. What I want to illustrate is that study abroad is not meant to be simply an extension or appendage of private education.

One of the purposes of study abroad is to reaffirm, and to some extent resurrect, one of the core beliefs of our educational system ? learning occurs predominantly through experience.

Students here have already discovered that Rochester is not the same world in which an Aretine lives.

What strikes me as the most important purpose of study abroad is that it asks us to find our identity apart from any fatherland, name, race, or ethnicity ? it forces us to look beyond differences to what it means to be human and to give a damn about humanity.

It opens your eyes ? before studying in Peru I did not know that Lima and Rochester shared time zones ? and before studying here I did not know that Rome and Johannesburg do as well. What does that mean?

How we conceptualize time reflects how we think. Neither Peru nor South Africa are part of different worlds, as the disparaging distinction “third world” might suggest.

Another example ? from Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina is across the Adriatic Sea.

The division between East and West in my mental map was so fortified by my presumptuous worldview that I could not believe my proximity to what I once, with a sort of vehement laxity, considered a distant, unfortunate and irrelevant land.

And this is one of the dangers that comes with the Grand Tour mentality ? “beauty” and “value” are scaled and attached to unspoken agreements which have predetermined what is edifying and “worth” seeing and what is less beautiful, less important, avoidable.

No one questioned my desire to study in Italy, and most people offered jealous reactions to the prospect.

Yet most everyone was extremely curious as to why I would want to study in Peru, other than to see the “beautiful” and “exotic” Macchu Picchu.

Yet, because I studied abroad in Peru, I have qualitatively changed the way I think.

I no longer identify myself as “American,” but as what the Spanish and Italian languages might translate as a “United Statesian.” America no longer means the United States.

Study abroad forces us to contemplate our identities and raise some of the questions that I have raised in this letter. In doing so it expands our political awareness of the world and questions who we are.

It is an endeavor that reveals our responsibility to both understanding and questioning our identities, our actions, and how we learn, see, live, and think about the world, and as Sonia Sanchez once said, how to be human beings, and how to walk upright.

? Scott ChallenerClass of 2002

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