Whether we realize it or not, the state of the world is reflected in our community. The price and quality of our food can be determined by the tenacity of the rainy seasons in the countries within an intertropical convergence zone. The situation in Darfur is declared genocide, and our government, uh, springs into action. French wine goes down in cost, and Bill O’Reilly calls for a boycott on French goods until Jacques Chirac can stop… doing whatever it is he’s doing that pisses O’Reilly off. Even a stroll through MSU’s very own Study Abroad website reveals many of Americans’ attitudes toward global culture and foreign policy.
Senegal is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in Africa, bolsters MSU’s Study Abroad Web site and yet remains relatively unknown. No kidding, lack of response to the program (two applicants) has forced the university to cancel this program for the spring semester. Pity, that. Especially since Senegal is one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa, and since Financial Times recently reported that 40 percent of the country’s new budget is going to education. Our own recent budget proposal, by the way, would cut $4.3 billion from education according to the Knight Ridder Tribune. Nevertheless, MSU students interested in the program plan to join University of Michigan students in a joint program.
[cuba] For other programs, the issues are more complex than lack of interest.
“I’ve been on 25 to 30 programs myself. I’ve developed about a dozen of them, and this was probably the best program we ever had,” Dr. Paul Roberts, director of study abroad and international training for the now-suspended Nepal program, said. Students choosing to go to Nepal were allowed to stay with families within a mile’s distance of one another. In addition, students on the semester-long program took part in an elephant safari and could hike through the Himalayas. The program was the last and most successful in a series of previous attempted programs in Nepal back in 2001.
However, since then, it has been suspended indefinitely due to Nepal’s dangerous political climate. A Maoist insurgence in 1996, intent on overthrowing the crown and instating a Communist republic spurred concern about stability in the area. Those worries came to a head when the current King Gyanendra took power after Crown Prince Dipendra, his brother, took his own life, as well as those of 10 other royal family members, including the king and queen. The massacre was initially attributed to the prince’s enragement over his parents’ refusal to allow him to marry, but the situation was not investigated well and is suspected to have been orchestrated by King Gyanendra himself. Now Gyanendra has refused to call parliament in session, Maoist tensions are increasing and MSU has opted to avoid the conflict.
[nepal] “If the situation changes with the king, yes, there’s a chance [the program will resume],” said Roberts. Not likely anytime soon, unfortunately.
Sometimes it’s not even the country itself that has the problems. For example, federal law has directly prohibited MSU’s programs in Cuba. Passed in June 2004, the law suspended all Cuban study abroad programs nationwide unless they were at least 10 weeks long and were directly sponsored by the student’s university, effectively destroying the majority of U.S. programs. Regarded at the time by Colin Powell’s chief of staff Larry Wilkerson as “the dumbest policy on the face of the earth,” the law additionally prevented Cuban-Americans from visiting their families more than once every three years, as opposed to annually, and increased aid to dissidents in Cuba (who want no part of the money and the obligation that comes attached to it). The reason study abroad was targeted? To cut money students may have spent in Cuba that would support Fidel Castro’s regime. This seems to be just another small part of the United States’ Ignore-It-And-Maybe-The-Problem-Will-Die-Of-Old-Age Initiative we have been following fairly steadily since the Cuban Missile Crisis. It doesn’t seem to take into account that the severance of human contact between two nations will not encourage much goodwill between them – especially while the United States is anticipating taking a quite active and rather invasive role in Cuba’s political structure in the near future.
[bloom] One country that quite recently began readying itself for the possibility of receiving MSU student visitors after almost five years of suspensions is Israel. The decision was made to suspend programs in the area because of – what else? – violence and ethnic conflicts. But not all students feel the Israeli terrain is as dangerous as MSU officials have made it out to be. “I feel so safe there,” Jennifer Bloom, political theory sophomore, said. Bloom recently returned from a trip to Israel that began in 2000, and is among the students and faculty members pushing the revivification of MSU programs there. “You go to Israel and you realize it’s a normal place; it’s a normal country with normal people,” Bloom said.
Ken Waltzer, the new director of the Jewish Studies Program at MSU, lobbied in 2004 for both the lifting of the embargo on financial aid to students choosing to study abroad in Israel independently and ending the years-long suspension on the program. With the creation of better Israeli defenses and the death of Yasser Arafat, many felt the benefits of studying in Israel would outweigh the possible safety issues. And, of course, the language that seems to speak to all peoples around the world – money – was also a factor. “[There was a] fund that a generous donor had given to allow students to go to Israel, and it had just been frozen,” Bloom said. In 2005 – 2006, there is a distinct possibility MSU will once again send students to Israel, just as other universities across the country are reopening their own programs.
Look at a map of the world. There are over 260 countries right now. That number might be as stable as a Nepalese prince slaughtering his family, mortally wounding himself, getting crowned anyway and then dying, but MSU has programs in only about 60 of them. It’s important to know why you can or cannot go to Angola or Pakistan or Bolivia, because with an increasingly global economy, one day you might have to make the trip.

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