It is a new year, and for some it may be a first year. I learned a valuable piece of wisdom this summer while studying in Taiwan — a lesson that students new and old can benefit from.
Being from the Midwest, many of us have very little exposure to different cultures. So most of our ideas are developed from what we see on television and in movies. Many people, myself included, have made stereotypical assumptions about cultures we know little to nothing factual about.
Furthermore, we do not seem to understand the pivotal roles foreign countries play in our history and everyday lives. For example, do you know which country dominated the Little League World Series in the 1970s? Or probably more relevantly, which country is also home to the High Tech Computer Corporation, more commonly known as HTC?
Asia is one of the United States’ biggest trading markets. We have very strong ties with countries like South Korea and Japan, and are working on developing better relations with China. But how much do most South Dakotans know about any of these countries, beside what we see on TV? The thing to realize is we cannot just overlook cultures just because they seem foreign and unusual to us.
It is absolutely ridiculous to think USD, which is suppose to be the premier business school, does not have, at the very least, a conversational Mandarin class; Even though, China is one of the worlds largest economies. And a lot of it has to do with our cultural belief that what goes on outside our boarders has little to no affect on us.
As you start or continue your education at USD this year, learn a few things. First the US is not, and has not been number one in absolutely everything globally like we seem to believe. We are far behind other countries in math, science, healthcare, economics, manufacturing and another of other things. Do not worry we are still number one in confidence, most sporting events and defense expenditures.
Secondly, isolationism has not been possible since the development of the telephone. Other countries problems are our problems whether we see it initially or not.
Third, we need to start being more culturally sensitive and aware, regardless if our future profession is in underwater basket weaving or animal husbandry, because, ultimately, we are global citizens. I am not saying it is necessary to embrace or even like other countries cultures. At the very least though, have a little knowledge about them so you can articulate why you hate these cultures with facts, not just stereotypical answers.
Finally, be open to trying new things, and getting out of your comfort zone. Just because what you are born into does not seem that bad, does not mean you should not make sure that it is the best thing for you. Sapere Aude. Even if you do try new things and realize it’s not up your alley, at least you made the attempt.
Reach columnist Blaine Reynolds at