Overall I would say that I have had a good life. There is one experience, however, that I wish was made available to me as a teen or even as a college student. That experience is that of being a foreign exchange student. I have met students from other countries and their experiences are always enriched by living in a different culture, meeting new people, experiencing new ideas of how things could be done resulting in the same positive outcome. It enables the development of tolerance for the different in our humanity. It broadens understandings between peoples.
I have been pleased to learn of my niece’s experiences of her studying abroad in several countries. Even when she ran into anti-American sentiment in a country, I thought this was a good experience to have. Hearing opinions that vastly differ from our world-view is an important experience to have.
I recently was approached by an organization that arranges for students from other countries to come here to study. The coordinator for Mississippi said, ” …I have a hard time getting families that will be accepting to the Muslim students from the Middle East or Buddhist from Asia.” What a missed opportunity for a family to reject a student from these regions of the world. She was hoping based on what she has heard about our faith, that Unitarian Universalists would be welcoming of these students.
What a gift it would be for a student from the Middle East to live in a country where religious freedom is the value here. What a gift it would be for a student from Asia. What a gift it would be for the family to welcome a student from another country and learn that the values this student has learned from their country are the same values we teach our children.
Our world, I’ve heard it said, is shrinking into a smaller and smaller neighborhood. Here is an opportunity to get to know our neighbors, one person at a time, perhaps, but O what a wonderful gift it would be. For more information on sponsoring an exchange student contact AYUSA.