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Santa Clara University

Faculty, Staff and Alumni Profiles

Picture of Joseph Mueller
Joseph Mueller
Dean of Jesuit School of Theology

 How would you define your international education experience?

  • International Student
  • International Scholar
  • Study Abroad Student

What was your international education experience like?

I have had several. I loved my six weeks in the City of Québec back in 1980, between my sophomore and junior years in college, right after the first referendum on sovereignty-association. What a rich culture!

In the 90s, I spent six and a half years living in Paris doing a master's and a doctorate in theology. The friends I made, the beauty of the City of Light, the loveliness of the French language, doing a book in that language, absorbing so thoroughly a different culture--all of them marked me for life.

In 2011, I did a sabbatical year overseas, spending eight months back in my beloved Paris and doing a semester of teaching at the Jesuit theology school in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, right after the civil war that toppled Laurent Gbagbo and installed Alassane Ouatarra. Living with Jesuits from 20 different countries, learning about life in a former French colony of West Africa--these expanded my horizons tremendously.

What message do you have to share with students and community members about the importance of international education?

There is a knowledge of one's own country and culture absolutely unavailable to you unless you live for a long time in another country or culture. The best way to gain that knowledge is not to tour many places, but to stay in one spot for a very long time, to make friends with the people there. One of the best things about international education is closing your mouth except to ask questions so that you can listen to what people have to say. If you manage not to defend your own country or to chatter constantly about "how we do things where I come from," but to seek to understand what people think about your country, yourself, and their own country, you will learn things that will make you a better person. Learning that there are different ways of acting and thinking in domains where you never imagined anyone could act or think differently than what you already know is an invaluable part of an education that makes you a person who is open to reality and who is patient enough to take the time to understand it. How we need such rare people today! Working through the loneliness and the experience of distance from the people you love is well worth the effort.