Students Need to Broaden Horizons

All right all you smart-ass UCSD students, finals are over, and I have a pop quiz for you:

1. Where is the Eiffel Tower located?

2. What language is predominantly spoken in Australia?

3. Is homosexuality very common in Greece?

4. What language is spoken by the Taiwanese?

5. How is Brazil different from other South American countries?

6. What are the people of Denmark called?

7. What language is spoken in The Netherlands?

8. Name the countries that comprise Scandinavia.

9. In what country is Mount Kilimanjaro located? OK fine, in what continent?

10. Where is Ceylon? What is Ceylon? Who is Ceylon? Is Ceylon a person, place, or thing?

The average American would not know the correct answers even to half these questions. But you, the brilliant UCSD student, you who graduated in the top 10 percent of your high school class, you who are poised for greatness — the kind of greatness that can only be measured by your stratospheric MCAT score and the kick-ass Beemer you will purchase once you finish medical school — you f—ing brilliant SOB, you … how many questions did you answer correctly? (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book — in this case, the end of the column — because I would never dream of deviating from the familiar format of your calculus textbook.)

This year I have the priviledge of living in UCSD’s International House. Never heard of it? Didn’t know we had one? It’s located in the Pepper Canyon apartments. It’s pretty cool; come check it out. In the course of my conversations with international students, I’ve come across some stories that have made me ashamed to call myself an American.

A girl from London received the comment “”You must see the Eiffel Tower a lot.”” A Japanese girl was asked if Japan was part of China. After telling an American student that she was from The Netherlands, a Dutch student was asked, “”Oh, that’s near Amsterdam, right?”” An Australian girl was asked, not once but three times, if she came to the United States to learn English!

Through my own travels I have come to realize that the rest of the world thinks Americans are morons. I’m starting to agree. To be fair, Americans are not inherently stupid; they’re only ignorant when it comes to matters that don’t pertain to their known universe — meaning the 50 states.

What’s that? Dost thou protest? Those are the uneducated masses, you say? Surely UCSD students, the elite of the intellectual world, cannot be lumped into the same category of ignoramuses. Perhaps, but perhaps not. I used to be impressed with people who had a 1450 SAT score to their credit. But so what if you entered UCSD with enough AP transfer units to make you a sophomore? So what if you passed Math 20F with an A your freshman year? You’re a dime a dozen here at UCSD. You can tell me the answer to R = P/2L ln ro / ri, but can you tell me which country Greenland belongs to?

It is not my intention to belittle the academic achievements of those who have worked hard in school. (Well, perhaps it is, but don’t take me too seriously.) Most of us who have made it thus far were raised in environments in which we were encouraged to study hard and to succeed academically. One may place the blame on our public school curriculum, which does not focus enough on geography and the cultures of other countries. One may point out that the rigors of attending UCSD leave us little time to explore the cultures and countries outside the United States. Alas, what is a culturally challenged UCSD student to do?

My answer: Get your nose out of your O-chem textbook and head down to the International Center (it’s located on Library Walk, across from Center Hall). Look into going to study abroad. You can go abroad your sophomore, junior, or even your senior year. Many programs do not cost any more than what it costs to attend UCSD. Not all programs require that you speak another language. You don’t have to go for an entire year, though I believe you are cheating yourself if you stay any less than the full academic year.

I spent my third year studying in Greece, and it was by far the best experience of my college career. Yes, this is my fifth (and last) year at UCSD. Yes, I would have graduated in four had I not gone (though it is possible to study abroad and still graduate in four). No, my major is not bioengineering or physics, it’s literature.

“”Well there you go,”” you say, “”that’s why you can go abroad and I can’t. I can’t finish in four and still go to med school if I go abroad.”” Yes, I have an “”easy”” major (though you try reading the Odyssey in ancient Greek and tell me how easy you find it) and no, I’m not smart enough to get into med school. Guess I’ll just have to settle for law school instead. Shucky-darn.

Stop being an ignorant American. Go abroad, broaden your horizons. No intelligent person has ever regretted it. And now for those answers.

1. The Eiffel Tower is located in Paris, France.

2. English is the predominant language of Australia.

3. Yes, Greece is full of flamers. No! What the hell is the matter with you? Homosexuality is no more common there than here or any place else in the world. That whole thing about Greek men all being gay is completely misconstrued.

4. The Taiwanese speak Mandarin or Taiwanese or Haka or … the list goes on. But the answer is not Thai. I am Taiwanese and you don’t know how many times I’ve been asked if I speak Thai.

5. Brazil differs from other South American countries in that their national language is Portuguese, not Spanish.

6. The people of Denmark are called Danes.

7. Dutch is spoken in The Netherlands.

8. Scandinavia is made up of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Finland is not part of Scandinavia though not even all Scandinavians are aware of this fact. But I swear it is so.

9. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa. For all you Toto fans who knew this, I salute you.

10. Ceylon is the island country now known as Sri Lanka. It is also a type of tea (obviously from Sri Lanka).

Bonus Question: Greenland belongs to Denmark.

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