Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Your Education Is Your Passport To Life

Written By: Erica Rawlins
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Clark Atlanta University
Studying Abroad is a vital part of an enriched academic experience. The opportunity to learn in another country exceeds the walls of the classroom. Studying abroad opens a plethora of knowledge that one’s native country cannot teach. “International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education,” said Institute of International Education’s President Dr. Allan E. Goodman. I can attest that studying abroad has impacted my world view, my career choice, and overall growth.

Traveling overseas to Barcelona, Spain provided the lesson to exercise cultural competence. I took a Spanish language and a cross cultural management course. I gained further knowledge of another country’s culture, language, traditions and ways of business. Upon arriving to Barcelona I was unaware of the primary language spoken, Catalan. Differentiating signs, directions and menus between Catalan and Spanish was quite challenging; however the experience pulled me out of my comfort zone. Looking back now, that obstacle strengthened my linguistic skills and patience. Living in a foreign country broadened my perspective. Often times as Americans we can become so consumed in domestic affairs that we become disinterested in what is going on overseas.This may be seen as arrogance from outsiders, due to the lack of American students living overseas. In fact Open Door reports states one in ten Americans go abroad in their academic career compared to the 72% of foreign students in the United States. In order to truly practice cultural competence one must realize the pace of an ever changing world. Societies are constantly evolving and as Americans we must broaden our global perspective.

There is a major disparity between the different types of American students who study abroad. During my stay I was astonished to see how many students of color were in my classrooms, I could count on my hands the amount of students of color. In past discussions many of my African-American peers cannot fathom the thought of financing and temporarily living overseas. According to the IIE’s open door report 5.6% of African Americans study abroad compared to the 8.8% of Hispanics and 73% of Caucasian students. Many are not aware of the abundant resources students can take advantage of to study abroad. In Barcelona I decided to document my journey and adventures through the social media outlet Snapchat. I wanted my friends to feel as if they were actually experiencing what I was experiencing. As a result, throughout my junior year at Clark Atlanta University I helped and encouraged several classmates to make their dreams a reality. 

There are various programs encouraging students to venture out of their comfort zone. The IIE program created a program called Generation Abroad. This campaign has a goal to double the number of American students studying in credit or non-credit programs by the end of the decade. Also, President Barack Obama launched an education initiative called 100,000 Strong in the Americas. The goal of the program is to increase U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. President Obama’s initiative includes expanding study abroad opportunities for both American and international students.

My study abroad experience during the summer of 2015 led me to become interested in foreign affairs. I have a fervent spirit to learn about other cultures and a genuine love for travel. I hope to continue to encourage my peers to study abroad and experience the vast diversity the world offers. As a global citizen, do not hesitate to expand your perspective through study abroad, you would be surprise how fast the world could become your oyster.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Outside of My Comfort Zone

Written By: Jennica Toussaint
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 11/28/2016
This summer I had the privilege of visiting many places, such as Michigan, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Canada. I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to travel to these unfamiliar places and explore life outside of my comfort zone. Uniquely, I learned valuable lessons from each of these trips, I created great memories, and I met wonderful people. Among all the places I have visited, the Tennessee trip was the best life-changing experience I have had this past summer. This exposure changed my perspectives about myself and my ability to overcome challenges. My stay in Tennessee was simply for a weekend camping with a group of friends. Our primary goal was to experience life outside of the security of what we were accustomed to. It was beautiful and worthwhile being around these individuals who inclined to experience life differently, and I called them true adventurers.

My adventure whitewater rafting in Middle Ocoee River has greatly contributed to my life-changing experience in Tennessee. Middle Ocoee River is America’s most popular whitewater river. It is well-known for 5 miles of continuous class III and IV rapids, which took us approximately 1 ½ hour to complete our kayak competition. It was the first time I faced one of my biggest fears, the fear of water. As everyone was getting on their boat, I contemplated the jewel-blue stream in the forest as the water hopped over the rocks happily. I was excited and scared at the same time, my excitement was the fact that I was getting ready to experience something new, but my fear was linked to my aquaphobia. Thence, I felt challenged to compete with nine boats, but I decided to go on the race. During the competition, my team and I were motivated to win the race and we worked hard to reach the finish line. We undertook many difficulties that stimulated in us a passion to win; we had a few knockouts, and several laps during the downriver, but we won 1st place. In the process of winning this competition, I experienced personal growth and I discovered the power of having a desire to win in unfamiliar situations.

Growth does not happen in our comfort zone because in this zone we are left unchallenged. So often people only view challenges as obstacles, but challenges are also tools that help us to discover ourselves and our true potential. One of the valuable lessons I learned from my whitewater rafting experience was the importance of living life outside of my zone of comfort and the obligation of living up to my full potential. I left Tennessee motivated to live an intentional life and to make a difference in the world. Participating in the kayak competition also taught me that doing anything outside of the security of what I know will always be a challenge, but my response to the challenge will determine the outcome, good, or bad. Rafting and competing in a foreign river was challenging, but despite the difficulties we encountered along the way, I chose to overcome my fear and embraced a winning spirit.

Because of my experience at Ocoee River, I was motivated to change my career path by pursuing a career in International Affairs to achieve my goal, which is to work for the United Nations as a conflict resolution specialist. Getting the internship position at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta was the result of stepping out of my zone of comfort. My involvement at the council was a unique experience that triggered a lot more curiosity to study international laws and global economics. As I pursue a dual master’s degree in the science of Foreign Service and International laws, I will continue to apply the valuable lessons that I learned from my trip to Tennessee by pushing myself to overcome fear, and to respond to life challenges with the optimism.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Board Member Profile: Bernard Taylor

Written By: Valeria Perez
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 11/22/2016
On October 11th, I had the honor of meeting Mr. Taylor, Partner at Alston & Bird LLP and Vice Chair of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta. Mr. Taylor became part of the Council’s Board of Directors in 2013.

Bernard was raised in Detroit, Michigan by foster parents whom he had great respect and appreciation for. He was raised in a household with fifteen other siblings.
As a fourteen-year-old boy, Mr. Taylor took on his first job at his neighbor’s company, cleaning factories on the weekends.

Familiar with hard work and sacrifice from an early age, Mr. Taylor always knew he wanted to become a lawyer and attributed his likeness for law to the impact the civil rights movement had on him growing up.

In 1982, Mr. Taylor graduated from Vanderbilt University with a J.D., where he was recruited by the law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, as an associate attorney. Bernard’s path to becoming a partner of the law firm began when he was given the opportunity to become a practice group leader, a position that was given to him due to his maturity and demonstration of commitment. Mr. Taylor humbly attributes his success as an attorney to having influential mentors and taking advantage of opportunities. For ten years, prior to his role as an attorney, Bernard served as a police investigator involved in federal and state criminal investigations, an experience he says “helped [him] understand the law from the bottom up with a raw filter”.

Mr. Taylor revealed some of the biggest challenges in the field of law. “Realizing how complicated our society has become. As lawyers, the challenge is to successfully continue to use law as an adaptable tool in complex environments.

When asked what he felt were his biggest accomplishments, Mr. Taylor refrained from speaking about his professional achievements and instead described his most important success as raising his four children, one of which graduated from Georgia State University and is continuing her education at Columbia University in New York City.

Mr. Taylor serves as an active member of the national board and chair of the Southeast Regional Board of Directors for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, where his role is to raise awareness about the issues children face around the world. Bernard is most passionate about finding systemic solutions to the issues and conditions many children are forced to endure. Mr. Taylor has traveled around the world, including Madagascar, Tanzania, and Rwanda, with the purpose of gaining first-hand experience of the struggle women, children, and families must bear in their communities. His goal is to share his experience with individuals in the U.S. and raise awareness to fund more ambitious projects around the world.

Without a doubt, Mr. Taylor is an incredibly accomplished and generous individual. If I could choose three words to describe Mr. Taylor, those words would be charming, wise, and inspiring. The World Affairs Council is honored to have him on our board and as an incredible supporter of our organization.