By Diyyinah Jamora, 2015-2016 Killam Fellow from the University of Ottawa to the University of Maine
I come from Canada, born in Vancouver and studying in Ottawa. Just this August, I packed up my things and moved to a new university and a new home to call my own for the next four months: Maine. I had never been to New England or even seen the Atlantic Ocean prior to living in Orono. Looking at a map of the United States you would think, “so basically it’s Canada.” But I quickly learned that living in a small town in Maine is incredibly different than back home, and studying at an American college is a very different educational experience.
During my exchange semester at the University of Maine, I’ve been fortunate to attend the 2015 Cohen Lecture: America’s Response to Global Instability where I heard from the Honorable William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense, General Joseph W. Ralston, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. General Ralston made a point that really resonated with me: all wisdom does not reside in the United States. When dealing with a foreign culture, we must bring viewpoints of people in the regions who are wise leaders, and get their input. We need to bring in people who understand.
There truly is immense wisdom beyond our own borders. In my American college classes, I have met students with opinions and perspectives that were very different from my own. The debates in my political science courses at times get very heated. During my exchange I have met so many passionate individuals with different worldviews. I have been exposed to beliefs and stances that I had never personally encountered before. Some, I will admit, were shocking. I have heard many life stories, and acquired new experiences of my own. I have argued, I have agreed, but most importantly, I have grown.
I have learned, and I have reflected. I have modified my own worldview, and continue to evolve as I learn new things. The more I listen to others, the more I begin to understand. I try to pursue knowledge straight from the original source, and try to rely less on secondary interpretations. And I will continue to seek wisdom beyond my own borders, and consider those ideas that may not necessarily agree with my own.
I encourage you to pursue an understanding of a different culture and gain new perspective. It is such an eye-opening experience to become immersed in a society other than your own. Go on a cultural or educational exchange! To my mind, I have promised growth. There is so much wisdom in the world if you only are willing to listen and give it a chance.