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What you can get out of this course

Why take this course? When will you ever use it?

Blu Jaz Cafe

Blu Jaz Cafe

Some assumptions of this course

  • Your attitude determines the persistence of your learning.
  • You can’t be too internationally aware.
  • You can’t be too technologically adept.

The two hardest things you will have to do in this course

  • Listen. Listen intently, with open ears and mind, to people who are different from you, to music that is different from anything you have listened intently to before.
  • Look. Look intently, with open eyes and mind, at images of foreign places and foreign people. The differences between you and them will be easy to see. So look for the similarities.

Why do more women than men sign up for this course?

Every semester, a disproportionate number of females take this course. The students who most eagerly embrace the Skyping and who seem to get the most out of the course are predominantly female. Nationally, of all the American college students studying abroad, two-thirds are young women. Why? A recent article, “Gender gap in study abroad widens,” focused on the situation at Towson State University in Maryland, where only a quarter of the four hundred students studying abroad is male.

Junior marketing major Ashley Wheeler, said there were many possible reasons females could be more interesting in studying abroad.

“I think guys are less willing to change if they don’t have to. Many guys also may not be comfortable with putting themselves in a vulnerable position,” she said. “Studying abroad isn’t something you can prepare yourself for, and you need to go into it completely open and without expectations. I think for the most part guys aren’t up for that.”

Broaden your horizons

In high school, you no doubt heard the phrase “college will broaden your horizons.” Well, HUM 300 will do that more literally than any other course you will take.

mee goreng

mee goreng

Here’s how I envision the best that this course can do. Do you see the open table in the picture above right? It’s waiting for you.

That’s the Blu Jaz Cafe in Singapore. You’re sitting at that table with several other people. You are there for your job, and so are they, and you were all strangers yesterday. But you’re getting along very well. None of them are American, but English is the common language. You don’t know for sure, but you don’t think any of them are Christians. The group of you have been out doing some sight-seeing and now you’re sitting down for something to eat.

Tiger Beer

Tiger Beer

After the waitress leaves to get your Tiger Beer and Seafood Mee Goreng (above right), someone turns to you and asks, “What did you think about that singer we heard this afternoon? And the way she danced!”

You reply with something interesting, insightful, and thoughtful that makes the others say to themselves, wow, she’s intelligent and sophisticated.

Right at this moment in 2015, could you put your finger on Singapore on a blank map of the world? No? The best that HUM 300 can do is set you on a path that leads you to the Blu Jaz Cafe and that insightful reflection based on your careful observation of the sights and sounds of Singapore.

If you have trouble imagining yourself in Singapore, this course can also:

  • help you feel more at home on an increasingly interconnected and crowded planet
  • give you some context when you encounter references to other countries and cultures in your daily life
  • give you a destination for your next vacation or a topic for your senior thesis
  • permanently expand your tastes in music. Listen and enjoy!

Career preparation

Many students tell me that when it comes down to it, learning more about foreign countries is frivolous. How will it help them get ahead in the world? Who needs to know this stuff? Travel to foreign countries is a waste of time.

Thoughts from Tom Friedman:

EndoStim was inspired by Cuban and Indian immigrants to America and funded by St. Louis venture capitalists. Its prototype is being manufactured in Uruguay, with the help of Israeli engineers and constant feedback from doctors in India and Chile. Oh, and the C.E.O. is a South African, who was educated at the Sorbonne, but lives in Missouri and California, and his head office is basically a BlackBerry. While rescuing General Motors will save some old jobs, only by spawning thousands of EndoStims — thousands — will we generate the kind of good new jobs to keep raising our standard of living.

We are moving into a hyperintegrated world in which all aspects of production — raw materials, design, manufacturing, distribution, fulfillment, financing and branding — have become commodities that can be accessed from anywhere by anyone. But there are still two really important things that can’t be commoditized. Fortunately, America still has one of them: imagination.


Ashlea Browning took this course a couple of years ago. I don’t think she’s made it to Singapore yet. But she’s been to Bangkok, many times. For two years, she taught in a school a short distance away in Rayong, Thailand. Last summer, she came back to the U.S. for a couple of months, but it wasn’t long before she took off again, this time to New Zealand, where she is living in Takapuna, New Zealand, a suburb of Auckland

Her blog is called Ash in Asia,. Even though she hasn’t been maintaining it, the early posts about her first weeks in Thailand are worth your while to read and contemplate. Her Facebook page is full of pictures of her daily life. Again, you’ll have to scroll down to see the Thailand pictures.

Ashlea running in Thailand

Ashlea running in Thailand