Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bollywood and international experiences

As in the US, Metropolia had a staff and faculty gathering in downtown Helsinki on Friday night. The theme was Bollywood… Yes, about one-third of the folks were in full dress, about one-third had some form of Indian garb – scarf, etc, and one third were given a “bindi”- a beauty spot on their forehead. As I saw the decorations, the excellent buffet of Finnish and Indian food, and then the Bollywood dance celebration, I marveled at the differences. They asked if US universities did the same…and I had to admit that we never had a “party” like this with the whole university. So, we discussed our department or college gatherings to celebrate the end of the year and the season of holidays. Although there were many in my group of faculty who didn’t come, it was obvious that folks here were carefree and lighthearted last night. Two of the faculty had rented costumes and looked like Aladdin and the Sheik… with makeup and full head to toe costumes. It was amazing. I also considered how these folks were able (yes about 300 or more) had found Indian dress or a facsimile.
Yes, Finland is not only part of the broader world, but its people have had experiences of travel, study leaves, and research projects in India, Africa, and Asia. I suspect that my colleagues, as worldly as they may be, have not had these same opportunities. Many of the Finnish faculty travels have been funded through the government to provide social and educational supports in other parts of the world, as well as support for international travel. From my vantage spot, the US talks about internationalization…but doesn’t step forward to provide the financial and physical structural supports. I fear we are losing our worldview—because of our isolation to the rest of the world. We don’t speak multiple languages, we don’t craft our work in relation to other countries and systems … we appear to dabble, rather than commit and act. We have much to learn from the Finnish perspective.

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