OCEAN, a boarding pass to the world
Embassies, UN agencies and international institutions gather at LAU Beirut for LAU’s third Study Abroad Day: Outreach and Cultural Exchange Across Nations.
“If they didn’t come to us we would never be able to go to them,” said Farah Salem, a first year education student, as she walked through different booths collecting information on the Beirut campus on April 24. “For me this event is of great value as it is guiding me in my search for study abroad education programs,” she explains, saying cheerily.
Salem had the choice between no less than 14 top study abroad destinations, nine UN agencies and three international institutions ready to inform students, faculty and staff about cultural exchange and study abroad opportunities. Reaching beyond the purely academic sphere, the Outreach and Cultural Exchange Across Nations (OCEAN) also allows those interested in extra-curricular experiences to identify creative international exchange opportunities in the fields of civic engagement and leadership, among others.
“The objective of this event translates the mission statement of LAU which is to transform our students into global citizens who transcend all types of parochial boundaries,” says Elie Samia, executive director Outreach and Civic Engagement unit (OCE) that hosted the event.
For Provost George K. Najjar, there is indeed much more to the higher education scene than just education, and LAU embodies this ideal. “This university has developed the tradition of pursuing goals beyond the mere acquisition, generation and dissemination of knowledge. It is building bridges between cultures, forming responsible citizens who will shape a better world, hand in hand with their fellows from around the globe,” he said.
Introduced by OCE in 2012, this year’s OCEAN had a different flavor as it was held in collaboration with the United Nations Information Center (UNIC). On this occasion, Ross Mountain, deputy special coordinator for Lebanon, UN resident coordinator/humanitarian coordinator and UNDP resident representative, was invited to be the honorary guest speaker at the opening ceremony.
“The advantage of going abroad to increase knowledge, experience and learn about other communities is of course invaluable and is to be encouraged,” Ross told the audience before adding, “At the same time, I dare to hope that you will not see further education as a ticket out of this country, but as an opportunity to strengthen your contribution to addressing fundamental problems in Lebanon and to the strengthening of social peace and prosperity for all Lebanese.”
Country participants this year were Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Holland, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. UN agencies represented were FAO, UNDP, UNHR, UNIC, UNIFIL, UNRWA, WHO, ESCWA and UNICEF along with the international institutions AIESEC, AMIDEAST and ISIC.