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Coles promotes studying abroad

Julius E. Coles, the former president of Africare, speaks to the University of La Verne honors students in the Campus Center Ballroom on Tuesday about the trials and efforts of his youth as an international traveler. Coles, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, was given the Princeton-in-Africa Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, and has spent more than 28 years in United States Foreign Service./ photo by Mitchell Aleman

Julius E. Coles, the former president of Africare, speaks to the University of La Verne honors students in the Campus Center Ballroom on Tuesday about the trials and efforts of his youth as an international traveler. Coles, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, was given the Princeton-in-Africa Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, and has spent more than 28 years in United States Foreign Service. / photo by Mitchell Aleman

Christina Collins Burton
Editor in Chief

The limited education of American students was thrust into the minds of the audience as Julius Coles spoke about his experiences of learning abroad Tuesday.

Coles, former president of the non-profit development group Africare, spoke on “Globalization Versus the American Student” in the Campus Center Ballroom.

He said he was not exposed to any other culture growing up in Atlanta. It wasn’t until he was in high school that he began to learn of the outside world.

“As a young man I lived in a black world with very little contact with people from white America,” Coles said.

A group of actors came to his high school and performed a skit for the students to demonstrate what it’s like living in a peaceful world together.

This was the first time that Coles saw people from other parts of the world united.

From that point he made a point to expose himself to the world around him.

He appealed to his fellow students to donate any amount, even a dollar, to send him to Africa.

He eventually raised enough to travel with a small group of students.

“I saw an Africa I had never imagined seeing in my life,” Coles said. “I had no idea it was as modern or sophisticated as it was.”

While in Africa he noticed that there was more of a tension between the students in his tour group than the people they interacted with on the streets.

While visiting there, he learned the importance of communication and that in order to move forward, one must adapt quickly.

Coles was thrust into a society where it was important he learn a foreign language and master it.

He emphasized how important it is for students to learn a foreign language and use it to help learn it.

“Being able to speak a foreign language was important. Being able to communicate is important,” Coles said.

After returning to the United States, Coles was determined to continue to travel and learn about the world outside the United States.

Then in 1962 Charles Merrell rewarded Coles a grant of $3,000 to leave the U.S. for a year and experience the world. For 15 months Coles studied and traveled around Europe.

“Experience life in its fullest. The world is yours, it is time to live it,” Coles said.

“I hope (the students) listened because it is really important for people to get out of the country and out of their comfort zones and learn about other cultures,” Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Felicia Beardsley said.

Beardsley agreed with Coles’ advice of travel to learn, and encourages students to visit other countries.

“I agreed with him. Even in different parts of America, being able to explore the world, you’d be learning something different everyday,” freshman biology major Daniel Miller said. “You learn more out of experiencing something than reading a textbook.”

Coles ended his speech by sharing his mantra, “I ain’t going to let nobody turn me around,” which was used during the civil rights movement.

He encouraged students to look at its bottom line, that no one should be able to turn you away from going out into the world to learn.

“We don’t have all of the solutions here,” Coles said. “We need to go out and learn and bring that back here.”

Christina Collins Burton can be reached at christina.burton@laverne.edu.

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