My friend’s son was walking to his campus job at New York University on September 11, 2001 when he saw a plane flying so low, so loud and heading for the Twin Towers.
The rest is history.
This freshman was part of the so-called “class of 9/11,” a group of students that was catalyzed by tragic events to embody a spirit of challenge. Challenged to consider what we will do with our lives. Challenged to make the most of our changed world.
The changes to international exchange and foreign relations since 9/11 are astounding to contemplate.
Unfortunately, most of the changes have sucked the air out of the positive aspects of exchange.
New laws and regulations from Congress to Homeland Security and the State Department to the local driver’s license bureau provide an obstacle course for incoming international students.
Added to the cross-cultural, language, academic and financial challenges that they already face, studying in America is a lot more difficult these days. Just ask any of the 1,200 international students and scholars at Colorado State University.
Foreign tourism has declined too.
As Fareed Zakaria pointed out in Newsweek Magazine, the “hassle and humiliation of entering and exiting the United States” these days has resulted in a dramatic decrease in foreign tourists visiting our country at a time when global tourism is increasing rapidly.
He cited instances of tourists being imprisoned for weeks for minor infractions such as overstaying their visas by a couple of days.
Reduced tourism is not limited to the Middle East but includes Europe, Japan and other areas. Even British tourists, who have a record-high exchange rate advantage, are choosing not to come to the U.S.
The financial losses from reduced tourism and business travel are obvious. Less obvious is the damage done to America’s reputation as a haven for the oppressed and as a land of opportunity.
Campus international offices have been challenged also.
Over the past several years, we have been implementing new systems mandated by Congress and the DHS, dealing with the media, advocating for international education, and serving our students — all at the same time.
When I spoke to a friend about our common experience, he told me about a Jesuit concept that is a perfect antidote to our challenging times: Cura personalis — translated from the Latin, it means “personal care.”
Cura personalis begins with respect for each individual and seeks to develop human potential through positive personal challenges within a supportive environment.
This is the philosophy of care that all of us must bring to our interactions with other students, visitors to our country and within our community.
At the International Office, this translates into personal and face-to-face relationships with international students rather than merely electronic or group interactions. It means that we go the extra mile.
At the student level, it means reaching out to visitors of our country — international students — and befriending them in an ongoing way.
Every individual has personal power to transform our world as we find it, and to make it better through personal care and outreach.
Through personal action we study abroad, befriend an international student, advocate through the political system, attend international classes, movies and events at CSU, i.e. “act locally.”
Cura Personalis — challenged, we awaken. Awakened, we are transformed. Transformed, we are empowered. Empowered, we serve the human family.
Although this is a Jesuit concept driving education at schools such as Fordham University, it also works at our large, public university.
As a global land-grant university, we at CSU serve the needs of society in many ways: researching environmental sustainability or infectious diseases, promoting business development, and through international cooperation.
The generation of students passing through U.S. universities today has a special challenge – and opportunity — to define how America will behave and how we will be perceived by the world.
Personally, I am optimistic about your chances.
Mark Hallet is the director of International and Student Scholar Services. The Office of International Programs’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.