The View From a Broad

Kristen Steagall – BA 2010 Russian and Eastern European Studies

I remember being given a book at Freshman orientation; it depicted a recent graduate’s experience starting an English language newspaper in Baghdad. At the time I saw this as an admirable and exotic feat but was rather flippant about reading it. Why should I care about this one man’s experience? Would he really have anything original to say? Anything more informative than what I could read in the newspaper?

“What I failed to realize at the time is that there is much to be learned from reading how others view and interpret the world.”

In many ways, this is the crux  of a liberal arts education. You learn about different viewpoints, how to interpret and synthesize said viewpoints and hopefully bring more understanding, tolerance and respect into our often dissident world. I should have read that book by the recent grad and heard what he had to say. In the least, I would have added a voice to my internal ruminations about Iraq. At the most, he could have changed my entire outlook.

Through a slightly less sophisticated but nevertheless interesting forum, I continuously come across people’s now requisite «I live abroad» blogs. I myself have one documenting my time living in Russia. I often ask myself why I am even keeping a blog. Won’t people have the same reaction to it that I had to the book given to me so many years ago? Do I actually have something to say that is enlightening or informative?  Honestly, I might not. But at the end of the day I am offering an interpretation of modern Russia that those who cannot visit can experience, because that is what the sharing of experiences is all about. It’s about adding another voice to the discussion so that one never gets too loud. It’s about trying to make sense of the new and unfamiliar. And it’s about trying to make us all understand each other just a little bit better.

Kristen is an executive team member of the LSA Dean’s Young Alumni Council. She lives in Saint Petersburg, Russia where she teaches English. To check out Kristen’s blog visit


3 thoughts on “The View From a Broad

  1. Kristen, I love this lesson, and I think there are two ideas at play here: the thought exercise of adding another interpretation to your point of view, and the act of actually cracking open the book in the first place. Both take the open-mindedness honed in a liberal arts curriculum.

  2. Pingback: Guest Post for U of M’s LSA Blog « The View From a Broad

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