Senior attends college around the world

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By Caitlin Kawaguchi

When I began looking at colleges, the description of a “global focus” always caught my attention. But I never expected that to mean living in seven foreign countries in the next four years.

Next year I will be attending the Global College of Long Island University.  When many current seniors will be packing up their rooms and preparing to move into a dorm for freshman year, I will be packing a suitcase for Costa Rica and preparing to meet my host family.

I first heard about the school when I was a sophomore, just beginning to look at colleges.  At the time, I thought it was amazing, but didn’t think of it as a serious possibility.

Not only did it sound too good to be true, but I also didn’t know anyone else taking such an alternative path for their college experience.

As I continued my college search, I found myself drawn to schools of a smaller size, with seminar style classes and more of an “alternative” approach to education.  I had been noticing that in lecture based classes in high school, I had a hard time paying attention and staying interested.

Talking through what I was learning with my peers was how I understood the information, so I looked for schools that offered classes that were hands-on and discussion based.

When I started narrowing down my list of schools to apply, Global College remained on the list.  The opportunity to travel while receiving my college education was one I couldn’t let go, so I filled out the application along with others.

When I was waiting to hear back from school on whether I had been accepted, I began to wonder how I would ever make a decision.  I loved all the schools I applied to and could see myself at any of them.  I began to think about why I wanted to go to college and what I hoped to get out of the experience.

The more I thought about it, I saw that the most important thing for me about going to college was being able to be challenged and have my perspective expanded.

I have always wanted to leave the Bay Area for school to experience something different, not only in education but also in lifestyle.  I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone entirely and I started to imagine what my life would be like if I went to Global College.

The Global College program is centered around experiential learning and extensive travel.  The school has centers in each of the countries where classes are held. Classes also involve hands on learning in each region.

All freshmen start at the Costa Rica center and also travel to Nicaragua and Panama with the school while there.  After that year, I plan on doing the Comparative Religion and Culture Studies year, which is located in Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan, and India. The next year can be either spent in one place or divided by semester.

I hope to spend one semester in China and the other in Australia.  The first semester of senior year is then spent working either on an independent research project or an internship and the second semester is in Brooklyn at the Long Island University center.

I want to someday work in the field of international human rights and social justice issues and in order to do that, I knew I would need to study abroad for at least one year.  But when listening to students at various colleges talk about their experience studying abroad, my mind was made up.

Hearing about their experiences and how much they had learned while being abroad, about other countries and cultures, convinced me that I wanted to spend as much time in other countries as possible.

I believe that knowledge of other communities and people is essential in effectively creating positive change in the world, and living abroad brings an awareness of culture and other aspects of communities that cannot simply be learned from books.

Global College is an opportunity for me to not only read about other countries and hear what others have found to be true there, but to actually live in other countries and be a part of the communities there.

One of the questions I have heard the most when I tell people where I’m going is the question of if I will miss it here in Northern California.  I have lived in this area for eighteen years and am ready to move on to somewhere new, but more than that, I see the whole world as my home.  If I stayed in the same place, I would be missing even more.