Memories of Awe Episode 20

Liz was getting a new insight on multicultural education from her interviews with Professor McKown. She had taken courses with a focus on multiculturalism, but what Professor McKown’s students were experiencing was a multicultural living environment. That seemed to be more engaging than what she was learning in class.

LJ: I’m interested in how you have so many memories of awe from the international students you teach. That must be very rewarding.

KMcK:  It is. I’ve never been much of a world traveler because I’ve taught every semester including the summers for over 50 years. The international students I’ve taught have been my only world experience.

LJ: I can see that. But one thing I’m curious about is how students from countries at conflict with each other got along in your classes.

KMcK:  Let me share with you a story of Emad.

Emad, an incoming freshman student, came to my office to work out his schedule. Emad was noticeably frightened because of the horror stories he’d heard about American faculty. As I was able to get to know him better, he quickly relaxed. He was from Yemen, and I learned that like most Yemenis, his family had been devastated by the war with Saudi Arabia. I let Emad know that many of his classmates were Saudi Arabian. In Emad’s case, his family business was destroyed by bombing from the conflict.

LJWhat happened with Emad and his Saudi classmates?

KMcK:  After the second week of classes, I realized that Emad and other Middle Eastern students were hanging out together, very similar to how I see American students get together after class. That’s a pattern that was reassuring to me. It seems as if people can get along even when governments can’t. I just wish that those in high office could see the level of respect that exists in a classroom where race, gender, cultural identity, or any other biological trait seems to disappear.

LJI wonder what happened to Emad and his Saudi friends when they returned home after graduation.

KMcK:  I do have a sense of that from the emails they send me. Emad was particularly close to one of his Saudi classmates. He and Abu plan to create a business together once the war is over. What I’ve found is that the friendships they develop while on campus last a lifetime.

LJ: What’s amazing to me from these memories of awe is that you have established an environment where respect, kindness, and generosity of spirit are lived. That’s very different from the programmatic approach that tries to promote acceptance.

KMcK:  Well said. I don’t believe that promoting anything ever works. You have to live the experiences.

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“Life is about creating and living experiences that are worth sharing.”– Steve Jobs

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