The Fulbright is just one opportunity for students to go forth, to spend a little time working on a project that will enlighten, maybe even improve, the world. The truth is there are a myriad of opportunities to serve the world and experience new cultures at home and abroad, all of which should be considered.
Teach for America is a program to bring teachers to low-income communities in hopes of ending education inequities. Having nothing but the highest respect for educators in this world, this would be an excellent opportunity for students leaving St. Olaf to not only experience a community vastly different from the privileged St. Olaf community, but to make a difference in the next generation, the generation that will be taking care of us someday. Just as we have benefitted from a top-notch education, it seems only fitting that we would then take that which we have learned and teach it to others.
The Peace Corps is the obvious choice for those going into the world wanting to make a difference. This is more important now than ever as the United States continues to decline in popularity around the world and as issues such as HIV/AIDS and poverty threaten so many people around the world.
Not to belabor the point, but the St. Olaf community is relatively isolated; despite our bragging about our vast number of study abroad programs, many study in Europe rather than Third World countries and miss out on the true culture shock of total, all-consuming poverty. If nothing else, an experience like the Peace Corps would be a lesson in humility.
Both Teach for America and the Peace Corps were on campus this week and those interested should talk to those representatives.
There are of course other organizations, such as the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, both seeking to place bright, enthusiastic recent graduates to serve low-income areas. Both would be appropriate choices for those looking to serve with a religiously affiliated organization.
Information about those organizations can be found on the Internet at www.lutheranvolunteercorps.org and www.jesuitvolunteer.org.
Even those that leave St. Olaf for real jobs or graduate school should consider opportunities to serve others within their own communities in any way they can. St. Olaf encourages all its students to lead lives of worth and service.
Certainly that is becoming more important in a world where peace is less commonplace and the disparity between poor and rich grows daily. Our education is a privilege, and we should then take that privilege and reflect it in actions that improve our global community.