NALLS: Travel abroad first

Programs for first years such as “London First” and “Shanghai First” are essential for developing and sustaining a global identity


Twenty students were chosen to trek to the United Kingdom and reside in the epicenter of the country’s multicultural growth as part of the London First program

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Cavalier Daily

In the early 19th century, a journey from North America to Europe took six weeks. By 1900, travel time was reduced to seven days. By the 2000s, the trip only took a mere eight hours. As transportation improved over time, communication swiftly followed. Rather than waiting  in the 1800s for a message to cross the Atlantic aboard a ship, then exchange several hands and find itself delivered by horse, a simple text message can be sent over the same distance today and read in under three seconds. These technological advancements create the sense that the Earth grows smaller each passing day. While the Earth may not physically shrink in size, a global sense of identity and community is undoubtedly developing. Programs offered by the University such as “London First” and “Shanghai First” are essential to educating the next generation about this shared, global identity of our time.

In the summer of 2017, the University reached out to students accepted during the early decision application period. Applicants were offered an experience of a lifetime — the opportunity to spend their first semester of college abroad in London. Known as “London First,” the inaugural program was the first of its kind at the University. Participants would forgo the usual first-year experience of activity fairs, lawn-streaking and football games in favor of a program in a country with starkly different “football” games. 

Ultimately, 20 students were chosen to trek to the United Kingdom and reside in the epicenter of the country’s multicultural growth. The purpose of the program was to expose the students to cultures within a global city, hoping the participants would share their experiences and knowledge with others in the University community upon return. Furthermore, the program was designed to broaden the perspectives of those involved and spur engagement with the rapidly forming global identity present in the city. Studies focused on the social struggles of those within the city, the broader political landscape of the United Kingdom in the face of Brexit and the dynamics of multiculturalism within the metropolitan city. Students could then use their broadened, global perspectives throughout the rest of their time at the University. 

With the success of the pilot semester, the University plans to further expand this kind of study abroad program. Next year, the University has its eyes set upon Shanghai while also continuing the “London First” program. In contrast to the last program, students from the host schools in London and Shanghai, Regents University and Fudan University respectively, will study at the University during the fall semester. Essentially, the universities will exchange students for the fall semester. 

What makes these exchanges and experiences important is their increasing relevance given the growing closeness of the modern world. With globalization continuing to expand and impact life in the U.S., the University is right in seeking to instill an understanding of this global identity from the beginning of a student’s years at college. Understanding this emerging global identity allows the student to interact and collaborate with those who may be different in culture or thought. As people relocate across the globe, the ability to collaborate internationally is increasingly prominent, whether in business, politics or science. 

Furthermore, an understanding of the position of the United States in the world is equally essential, especially in light of issues such as trade and global warming. If the United States withdrew itself from the global community, competing countries such as Germany and China would surpass it with ease, technologically, financially and scientifically. Global experiences abroad also illuminate multiculturalism in the United States, as the country was founded on and strengthened by years of immigration and cultural mixing by immigrants from the same countries in which some of these study abroad programs operate. 

Finally, through understanding different cultures, traditions, worldviews and values, the students of today will become the leaders of tomorrow, bringing our world closer together. As a result of global experiences, students develop global empathy by understanding domestic decisions may have international repercussions. Knowledge from global experiences serves to empower individuals in any given occupation. Benefits manifest on a personal level as well, with students learning to listen to and respect those from other cultures while similarly developing the personal confidence to remain comfortable in unknown situations. 

Unlike traditional study abroad programs, first-year trips abroad allow students the time to apply these skills learned off-Grounds. For example, if a third-year student travels to Shanghai during the spring semester, only one year is left to apply their experiences on-Grounds. Unfortunately, their last year on Grounds is one of the busiest, from preparing capstone projects, attending social events for the last time or securing jobs for budding careers. In contrast, if a first-year student travels to Shanghai in their fall semester, they have the rest of their time at the University to share their skills and experiences with others and apply them to opportunities on Grounds. Thus, students have the time and capacity to leave a lasting impact on Grounds with their global education.

For the academic community at the University to succeed, the community must continue to circulate and exchange ideas. As programs such as “London First” and “Shanghai First” grow, further global ideas will find their way to our Grounds. As an intellectual collective striving to promote ideals of discussion, collaboration and enlightenment through diverse ideas, these programs will continue to serve as an immense boon. The University will be empowered to lead academic institutions in a radically new, yet rewarding way of study. 

Matthew Nalls is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at

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