Losing an argument leads to career
I’ve now traveled or lived in more than 30 countries, from India, Egypt, Gaza and Iraq, to Guatemala, Peru, Nicaragua and soon, Thailand. But it didn’t start out that way. Not even close.
I grew up in Spokane, Washington, “heart of the Inland Empire”, and I believed that was quite enough, thank you. The farthest east I had traveled by the time I was 29 was Denver, Colorado. When my wife first proposed that we fly to Israel to see a kibbutz community where she had once lived, I thought she was nuts.
“Hey, there are parts of the United States I have never even been too, honey. How about we start there?” She was not persuaded.
What does cause some of us to seek out the unknown, and others to shrink from it?
Jaak Panksepp, a leading neuroscientist at Washington State University has studied this issue for decades through extensive animal research. Seven ancient instincts, in his view, drive the human being: SEEKING, ANGER, PANIC-GRIEF, MATERNAL CARE, PLEASURE/LUST, AND PLAY. And of these, SEEKING is the underpinning driver. When that instinct is diminished, we often experience depression.
I find that my teaching today is driven by the desire to stimulate the SEEKING instinct in students. I want them to develop an unquenchable thirst for understanding how other people “tick”, especially those that seem to be radically different from themselves. Then I want them to develop the talent to investigate and peel back the layers on the surface, and see what lies deep beneath. Not just in others, but in themselves.
Some students will initially only travel this road kicking and screaming. Just like me. Some will do it if the incentives (bonus points toward an “A”) are particularly attractive. But once that SEEKING instinct kicks in, But once that SEEKING instinct kicks in, it’s like a powerful drug that keeps you coming back for more.
This is not the only argument I have lost in my life, but it is one of the most rewarding ones.
In September, I head to India for a year to teach students and university faculty how to learn directly with other students around the world in international course collaborations. I hope you’ll join me on the journey through this blog. If you teach, I hope you will get new ideas for how you can embed international collaboration strategies within your own courses. If you have a particular interest in India, I hope you gain some new insights by seeing it through my eyes. I believe ideas and perspectives are best understood if we know something about the person who is filtering those ideas. If you choose to come along, you will get my warped, twisted and unique perspective, as all perceptions are.
I always learn way more than I expect to learn when I travel. And I expect a lot. Last time I traveled was to Egypt in 2012 to find and engage university partners. It was 100 days after the first democratically elected President in Egypt in 40 years. The young Egyptian students I met with expressed fierce, determined optimism, which fought daily with blistering disappointment and anger at how little had been accomplished in the first 100 days. The students in Egypt and in Seattle shared their perspectives on this and other social justice issues like female harassment and freedom of the press, over Skype and in late night live chat conversations with my students in Seattle. And in both countries, students worked with local non-profits who were working on solutions to these issues. It was eye opening to all of us to find out how little we really knew.
I usually travel solo on my trips abroad, but this time I will be coming with Kimi, my fiance and soon to be wife, who, for the record, is a Texan. Which is kind of like being with someone from another country. She grew up on a ranch herding cattle, while I was a city slicker, from a neighborhood my dad affectionately called Poverty Flats. There are lots of cows on the streets of India, so it seems like a good way to combine our urban and rural lifestyles. Well, we will see.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.