March 21, 2006

Spend part of your summer with Nicholas Kristof!

Posted in other groups and events at 4:57 pm by Aditi Sriram

So here’s an absolutely awesomographic opportunity to travel the world with New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, and write about it — FOR the New York friggin’ Times! His article today, “On the Road, You and Me”, written from Chad, proposes the following:

Universities should grant a semester’s credit to any incoming freshman who has taken a gap year to travel around the world. In the longer term, universities should move to a three-year academic program, and require all students to live abroad for a fourth year. In that year, each student would ideally live for three months in each of four continents: Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

A student might, for example, start off teaching English and studying Latin American history in Ecuador, then learn Chinese intensively in Chengdu, then work at an AIDS clinic in Botswana while reading African literature on the side, and finish up by studying Islamic history in Istanbul. In each place, the students would live with local families.

Since the best way to learn about public health challenges is to endure them, I would also suggest offering extra credit for any student who gets malaria.

The cost of a year of travel would be far less than the annual cost of attending many colleges in the U.S. Third-class trains and buses are incredibly cheap; you can sometimes ride free on top of the trains. As a student backpacker myself in India two decades ago, I once lined up with the beggars and lepers of Amritsar to get free gruel from a Sikh temple — but that embarrassed even me.

…concluding with (hold your breath; drumroll, please!):

All this has been throat-clearing for my own announcement: In an effort to put my company’s money where my mouth is, I’m sponsoring a contest in which I’ll take a university student with me on a reporting trip to a remote part of Africa. We’ll visit schools, clinics and villages, perhaps chatting with presidents in their villas and Pygmies in the rain forest. The winner will write a Weblog for nytimes.com and prepare a video blog that will be shown on mtvU.

So if you’re a masochistic student — or if you have an ex you want to send into a malarial jungle — you can find out more information at nytimes.com/winatrip.

And even if you don’t win, you can do this kind of thing on your own. So I’ll hope to see you hanging out in Ndjamena by the Chari River, as the hippos bellow nearby.

The application and rules are available here. The application (plus 2 references) is due by 4/20, and the winner is announced 6/1.

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