What is it to study abroad for a semester? My good friend Marcello summed it up as “fun with words.” I agree completely.
Let’s unpack this. Words are not considered fun by many people. They can be clumsy, large, difficult to remember, and ultimately unfit to express what one feels or thinks. This is the view of someone who has never truly experienced F.W.W. Language becomes burdensome, associated with school and grammar lessons with a stringent Ms. Wormwood (or some such curmudgeon).
Here’s how I’ll explain my experience: when I decided to take a semester off from my English major to study Italian my reasoning was that I would be taking a break from the routine. Which I did. What I didn’t expect was how it would circle back to my love of letters.
In learning a language I inevitably reflected on my own. The language to which I had become so habituated through (ironically) my studies in literature and writing came alive to me in a new light. Looking at my own abilities in the language, I note a few places lacking: primarily my vocabulary. To amend this, I will commence a study of GRE vocabulary (a two-birds-with-one-stone sort of deal) and also utilize freerice.com, a website with a good use and good cause.
The next time you are trying to express yourself, take a moment to appreciate the miracle of language and what it accomplishes for us. In this way, it may be a bit harder to misuse this tool. In the words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the pen is mightier than the sword.
There exists a great fear and frustration in the journalism industry that the youth of today aren’t as engaged in news as past generations. Microsoft researcher and youth-culture expert Danah Boyd said, “General news is not relevant to young people because they don’t have context. It’s a lot of abstract storytelling and arguing among adults that makes no sense. So most young people end up consuming celebrity news.” I would add that sports news is another place to which youth turn.
Why is this a problem? For the news organizations it’s obviously a problem because it threatens their earnings, but the issue is more profound than that. In the United States, there’s a lack of connection to the world. Only upon leaving the country have I come to realize this. With a media and entertainment culture as powerful as ours, it isn’t a natural inclination to go out into the world searching to learn about other cultures. Why would you when the entire world seems to be turned towards us? Whatever the cause, it’s from here that stems the negative stereotypes of Americans, such as being bad at geography. Coming to Europe, every country seems more connected. Not by choice, but by the mere fact that they are close in proximity.
It’s one thing to acknowledge the problem, it’s another to fix it. While reading an Italian newspaper, I came across an article about the newspaper “Corriere Della Sera” and its efforts to put content online. This is not a feat in itself. The fact that the content was going straight to Facebook, one of the most influential tools today in regards to young people, was unique.
I find myself able to enter into international news more easily because I have met people from all around the world, turning abstractions and concepts into faces and personalities. This clearly is not an option for everyone, but it is proof that young people can enter into a relationship with news if they find a way to make it relevant. A number of American newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are already a part of this trend, and with any luck will catch the eyes of my generation and banish international/Youtube embarrassments in the future. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.
Tagged: Andrew Erlandson, cultivate, generation, ignorance, interest, journalism, news, relevance, relevant, young, youth