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Cross-Border Learning Fosters Cultural Exchange

By Joyce Kryszak


Singapore –

Education has always provided an avenue for students to explore other ideas and worlds. Still, what can be learned from books about other cultures is limited. But today higher education is reaching beyond books - and borders - to expand knowledge like never before. This week our series on globalized higher education continues with a look at the cultural impact of off-shore campuses.

Dressed in a shimmering yellow and orange trimmed sari, Shiva Murukutla blends beautifully into the feast of colorful foods and products at the Mustafa. Murukutla said the busy 24-7 indoor market in Singapore's Little India is a mainstay for tourists and locals.

This "shoppers' temple" has four floors of everything from jack fruit to watches and saris - hundreds and hundreds of jewel-toned saris. Murukutla tells us about the Indian tradition of sari wearing - and buying among the women in her family.

But Murukutla's daughter Manognya doesn't join them. The recent college graduate prefers to wear modern, western style clothes. And she bought some of them at America's equivalent of the Mustafa - Walmart. You see, Mano spent her last year of college at UB's Buffalo campus. Mano loved studying in America. And when she wasn't studying, Mano really loved Walmart.

"It's very entertaining," said Manognya Murukutla.

Apparently, Walmart ranks high on the list with other international students who study in America too.

Kaiyan Leong is another Singaporean graduate from UB in Buffalo. He also found some new passions while there. Leong even took up playing hockey when he returned to Singapore. Although he said the rinks are much better in Buffalo.

But he said not everything is.

Leong describes what it was like living near Buffalo's Bailey Avenue neighborhood - stressful and scary.

Leong said he has never been scared in Singapore. The streets are immaculate and safe - and for a very good reason. The country has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism. Committing a gun crime in Singapore is punishable by life in prison. And drug crimes can bring the death penalty.

Kenneth Kim is a UB professor who teaches in Singapore for a couple months each year. He likes that Singapore is a strict country. It makes him feel safe.

But laws aren't the only reason Singaporeans live in relative peace. Although it is a multi-national country with people from many faiths and ethnicities, there is a palpable racial harmony here.

While in Little India, I stopped by the Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple. Shoes were piled high outside the temple where inside neighborhood Hindus celebrated midday Pooja. I was hardly noticed amid all the activity. Worshippers made food offerings, received blessings, and bowed in prayer. Outside I caught up with a Hindu gentleman named Ragoo. He explained why no one minded that I was there.

Government support is visible. Billboards are seen everywhere advertising unity events and mottos that promote racial harmony. But most Singaporeans will tell you, they don't treat anyone differently, because they don't see any differences.

Sanjiv Govind, Laura Yeap and Taksumi Kawamura attend UB's Singapore campus. They even explain why there is no racism in unison.

"One people, one nation, one Singapore," said Govind, Yeap and Kawamura.

Govind said global education can be a bridge to that way of thinking. He said students can come together and get more from the experience than just a degree.

Next week our series concludes with a look at how much farther higher education will be reaching out to bring students and worlds together.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.