Those of us who voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris feel this way. From communications with colleagues abroad, many feel the same way. I’m not going to write a political column [although the title itself is a give-away, right?]; however, I could not let the inauguration go by without comment.
The profession of international educator, the one I know best, has suffered on many levels during the past four years; and needless to say, the pandemic has left all educators facing a crisis of proportions unknown in our lifetime.
Classroom life is virtual and so is learning. There has been no mobility for students and scholars. There have been no international conferences or meetings. Dreams of families to send their children to study abroad have been crushed. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in higher education have been lost either temporarily or permanently. Job insecurity at colleges and universities is widespread. And in particular, friends and colleagues of mine in leadership roles at campus international education offices or with organizations supporting education abroad programs – all have seen budgets collapse, jobs lost and aspirations of young professionals in the field greatly diminished.
We also are carrying with us the burden of a vastly different view of the United States by our colleagues abroad. No one could have imagined that the moral stature of the country would be so tarnished and hollowed out by the policies of the past administration. But here we are – a day before the dawn of a new era…or should I say, a return to the norms and practices we’ve cherished in the past (and perhaps took for granted- at least following the debacle of Watergate).
We do have a long road ahead of us before the field of international education returns to anything like it was. I think campuses will be re-assessing their commitments to internationalization for years to come. Professionals may be forced to move on to explore other careers. But, as I’ve written elsewhere, perhaps the new “normal” that emerges will see new innovation in developing opportunities for internationalization-at-home…meaning in the immediate campus community, nearby neighborhoods, elsewhere in the state or region –as opposed to solely focusing on regaining lost ground only in mobile international learning experiences.
If there is a silver lining for the field of international education, it could be that a far greater number of students have opportunities to develop intercultural and cross-cultural skills, and an array of other skill sets valued by employers in all fields, through off-campus experiential learning-at-home. A democratization of access to “internationalization.”