Open Letter to Nicholas Kristof: Thank You for Highlighting the Importance of Study Abroad

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Dear Mr. Kristof,

I am writing to express my gratitude for your recent Times Opinion piece: “The Backpack You Need Isn’t for Carrying Books.”

As Vice President of High School Outbound Programs at CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), a nonprofit study abroad and international exchange organization committed to building bridges between different people, different countries, and different cultures, your reflection on foreign policy mistakes that arise from a lack of cross-cultural understanding deeply resonated with me. 

Since 1947, CIEE has worked to advance peace by helping people develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. We provide young people from American high schools and colleges with meaningful study abroad experiences so they can become more empathetic, culturally aware, and well-rounded. 

Just as your article was going to print, we were beginning the process of awarding $7 million in CIEE Global Navigator scholarships to increase access to study abroad. More than a quarter of the thousands of high school participants studying abroad this summer with CIEE will receive significant financial aid to make their transformational experience possible. The Global Navigator scholarship fund was established eight years ago with the support of a single donor to make study abroad a cornerstone of the American high school experience.

Students traveling with CIEE this summer will gain a broader world view through experiential learning, living with local host families for immersion in one of seven languages, or learning business, writing, or science in a locale outside the classroom, working on real world challenges and meeting locals along the way. 

Your column in the Times suggests that we are aligned in seeing study abroad as one of the best ways to help America's youth gain familiarity with the world and empathy for people different from themselves. We cordially invite you to visit one of our programs in action this summer. You'd be able to meet students to gain their impression, and learn more about our mission. Consider it your turn to "win a trip"!

If this sparks your interest, perhaps we could collaborate further – maybe CIEE could sponsor a student to go on your reporting trip or create an opportunity for your trip alumni to build on their experience with a study abroad component. We can also connect you with CIEE study abroad alumni to share where they are in the world and how their experience abroad informed their worldview and path.

Please reach out if you would be interested in partnering with us to help young people gain a global perspective while acquiring the skills needed for college and career success. We like to say: CIEE changes lives, our alumni change the world. 

Thank you once again for your article highlighting the importance of an international experience for American youth.

Warm regards,

Matthew Redman, VP High School Outbound Programs
CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange