“If you love your country so much, why are you leaving?”
That’s the provocative question South African student Nicola Soekoe asked in a blog post about her decision to study abroad at Yale University. She wrote:
I would ask myself, “If I am as dedicated to uplifting South Africa and Africa as I say I am, why did I choose to come abroad? If I am so quick to boast about the beautiful South African people to the my American peers, why didn’t I stay there and live with them, surely that would leave me better equipped to one day play a part in uplifting my country?”
Certainly some people back home may see the decision to study abroad as a desertion. Anna wrote yesterday that her Russian friends and family see her differently now that she’s spend time getting an education in the U.S. “I can’t even remember how many times I have been called ‘brain-washed,’” she lamented.
But when we asked Nicola’s question on Facebook, the response was overwhelming: you didn’t see studying abroad as a rejection at all.
“Leaving is simply a quest to get a better education to make one more equipped to develop their country,” wrote Angel on our Facebook page.
“We try to give the best to our country by studying and getting knowledge …,” agreed Nardy.
And Homayoon argued, “The main reason behind studying abroad is to better serve your own country. It means you go abroad to learn and gain new, advanced and updated knowledge and skills in a different developed culture for to bring it back to your home country.”
David made the additional point that seeking knowledge should be no reflection at all on how you feel about your country:
Love of country should never exceed love of knowledge. If knowledge can be had elsewhere, why not go? If you love your country, why not bring the knowledge back?
And what has Nicola concluded during her time in the U.S.?
Maybe it’s the fact that you have to be taken out of a situation to analyze it objectively, or maybe it is the sense of “anything is possible” here at Yale that makes these dreams of uplifting Africa seem so tangible, but for the first time I have found myself in a position where I feel like I could, perhaps, do something, someday.
Do you agree with our commenters that studying abroad doesn’t have to mean giving up on your own country? How would you answer Nicola’s question?