In our age of global terrorism and international
distrust, programs that allow college students
and professors to study or teach abroad enrich
not only those who leave home to participate
in such exchanges, but also the citizens of
the nations that host them.
There are risks and challenges, of course,
for people like me who venture away from home
to study or teach. World events during the
past few years have fostered feelings of fear
and distrust toward unfamiliar nations and
cultures that are real and ever-present. For
a Muslim scholar such as I to choose this
point in time to come to the United States
to teach does pose quite a challenge.
But although scholars contemplating work
or study abroad should carefully examine
their objectives, methods of scholarship
and personal and professional circumstances,
they should nevertheless feel confident
in pursuing the goals they have set.
Intellectual and academic integrity must not
flinch in the face of the fleeting pressures
that may confront them in an another country.
The search for knowledge must proceed apace,
even if cautiously. Those who are committed
to the pursuit of knowledge recognize that
it is a cradle-to-grave process that may lead
one to unfamiliar or even remote countries.
And once professionalism provides the inspiration
to venture out, the value of the experience
is truly inestimable. Through studying or
working abroad, one gains a vast amount of
information - practical insight as well as
knowledge of one's areas of academic interest.
True enough, thanks to a shrinking world it
is possible for someone outside the United
States to acquire good knowledge of the workings
of American society. But the practical insight
and experience that a working stay here confers
I have found that the benefits of this
unique experience compensate handsomely
for the risks inherent in it.
In my family, the profession of history
is a tradition, one which I have cherished
from a very early age. I love teaching and
research , and welcome the challenges and
opportunities that I have found in London,
Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world
where I have been privileged to work as
a visiting professor.
Against that background, I welcomed the
fresh opportunity to work at LeMoyne-Owen
College that came my way as a Fulbright
Though the experience of two months is
necessarily limited, I have found at LeMoyne-Owen
a well-articulated concern about providing
higher education opportunities for the entire
population and a great commitment to the
fulfillment of that cause. It is a pleasure
to work in such a focused and purposeful
But perhaps what I have loved most in Memphis
are the people I have been privileged to
meet. Residents of mega-cities are understandably
shy of strangers, and city dwellers can
More than many other city dwellers that I
have come across, Memphians greet people when
they meet them. "How are you doing?"
is a popular greeting here, reminiscent of
the greeting of my own Yoruba people, "
Se alafia le wa o ."
At bus stops, shopping centers and small gatherings,
Memphians do not wait for formal introductions;
they pick up conversations and relate with
beautiful ease with others. Almost at every
turn, Memphians are ready to lend a helping
hand - ready to make sacrifices to ensure
that visitors such as I feel at home, even
though we are away from home.
And as for the citizens of Memphis and
other places that host educational exchange
programs, do they not also benefit by welcoming
visitors from other nations?
By inviting scholars from abroad - and
particularly from an Islamic culture such
as mine - into their homes, educational
institutions and workplaces, Americans show
their government's and citizens' openness
and tolerance toward other cultures. They
demonstrate this country's commitment to
the letter and spirit of its Constitution,
and people everywhere should salute them
The whole purpose of the international
exchange of scholars is to foster mutual
understanding between the participating
countries. As the late U.S. senator from
Arkansas J. William Fulbright once said,
our goal in the world community should be
to cooperate in constructive activities
rather than compete in a mindless contest
of mutual destruction.
As citizens of the world, we may be hard
put to find easier or more effective ways
of bringing this cooperation about than
sharing the genius of the human mind across
Tajudeen Gbadamosi is a professor of history
at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He
is a Fulbright Scholar in residence at the
Center for African and African American
Studies at LeMoyne-Owen College.
Story and photo courtesy of the Commercial
Appeal newspaper, LeMoyne-Owen College.