Posted on 20 May 2020 at 14:46 by Vicky Lewis
Drawing on the thinking of 17th century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, it challenges the belief that ‘we must always go to new places in order to feel and discover new and worthwhile things’ and urges us to make the most of what is close at hand.
Towards the end of the 18th century another Frenchman, Xavier de Maistre, ‘decided to study the wonders and beauty of what lay closest to him, entitling the account… A Journey Round my Room’.
What really struck me about this was the insight that ‘the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to. If only we could apply a travelling mindset to our own rooms and immediate neighbourhoods, we might find these places becoming no less interesting than foreign lands.’
He suggests that the chief characteristics of a travelling mindset are receptivity, appreciation and gratitude. And that ‘crucially, this mindset doesn’t need to wait for a faraway journey to be deployed’.
It seems to me that, at a time when we cannot jet round the world and when we have an opportunity to shake off our environmentally damaging addiction to long-haul travel, this is a very pertinent message. And a useful lens through which universities might consider their aspirations for Internationalisation at Home.
Internationalisation at Home (IaH) has been defined as ‘the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments (Beelen & Jones, 2015). This EAIE blog (Jones & Reiffenrath, 2018) provides a helpful summary of what is involved – from virtual mobility through to engagement with ‘cultural others’ in local society.
At the heart of IaH is the belief that the benefits of developing global perspectives and learning how to engage effectively across cultures should be shared across the entire university community, rather than being the preserve of the privileged minority of students able to complete some or all of their studies in another country.
It is about enhancing the quality of the academic experience, enriching students’ wider experience of university and building attitudes, knowledge, skills and behaviours that will be of life-long value.
It is worth focusing on the ‘attitude’ element, as this links back to the notion of a ‘travelling mindset’ with its emphasis on receptivity, appreciation and gratitude. Such qualities make it much more likely that a person will reap the full benefit of any form of international or intercultural engagement. However, it could also be argued that these qualities can be developed and exercised precisely through such engagement.
Surely the cultivation of a travelling mindset, leading to the ability to discover new and worthwhile things close to home, could represent a useful graduate attribute. And one which can be fostered in an equitable, socially beneficial and environmentally sustainable manner.