Author: Edymar Hurtado
Living in a small town in Indiana, Chris Musick developed his love for adventures while he was having a Tom Sawyer childhood. With a river beside his house, he spent most of his time building forts, making fires and camping. These were only the first steps for later becoming a world traveler and later being the Assistant Vice President of International Affairs at Chatham University.
“When I was young I used to go very often to the woods and thought about how great other places could be,” he said. “I wanted to be an explorer, but as I got older I understood that everything was already discovered or visited, so that adventurous feeling was different.”
While having this in mind, his father died when he was in high school, and that changed the direction of his life. In the aftermath, his mother went back to university and studied Anthropology, and she would take him on many trips with her. In the 1970s, his first step outside United States was in Mexico City.
When he finished, he enrolled at Ball State University in Indiana and studied Philosophy. According to him, there are two main reasons for choosing this career: one, from all the times he spent in the woods, he was very curious about the nature of the universe, human thoughts and the origin of humanity; and second, his father: “When my father died it caused me at a young age to start asking questions about what the purpose of life is. I think that made me want to look for answers like what makes a happy person, what makes an ethical person.”
Musick graduated with a degree in Philosophy however, was unable to find work as a philosopher. “I discovered that the education that you gain is very valuable to yourself but other people don’t necessarily see the value in particular kinds of degrees, Philosophy being one of them. So my mother encouraged me to study abroad,” he said.
His first exchange program was in 1984 to London, England, for a two month studies in British History, Arts and Christianity. After finishing his studies, he went backpacking to Ireland: “While I was there, I met all these fascinating people from around the world, and I began to discover a lot about myself and a lot about my country,” he said.
And according to research that’s something people normally feel when they go abroad. Studies have shown that traveling gives you confidence, makes you more tolerant and open-minded, and makes you less conventional.
Having experienced all these benefits, Musick went back to the US and started his graduate degree in Anthropology, English as a Second Language and University Administration.
Then he applied to give English classes with the Jet Program which selected 30 people from English speaking countries, and this allowed him to work in the Wakayama Prefecture Office in Japan.
He came back after his first job and started working at the University of Kentucky where he advised international students again before getting a scholarship to go back to Japan, for a two years studies in intercultural communication.
While he was studying he got an offer to work as a translator of the Japan Airlines inflight magazine. The vice president of the company was recruiting people from many countries to make sure that nothing in the magazine was offensive. “This was something serious for them, because it is not the typical airplane magazine, this was like a National Geographic one,” he said.
Then when he finished he came back to the US and continued as an international student advisor. “I really felt that was my mission in life, since along the way I think I prepared myself for doing this.”
Two years ago he found Chatham and he fell in love in the moment he entered to the campus. “This university has a really good history about international education and I like what Chatham is trying to do with sustainability, with women issues, and lots of other things.”
He came as the Associate Vice President of International Affairs, and his job as an international educator allowed him to travel to many other countries such as Ecuador, England, Scotland, France, Russia, Uganda, and many others.
He hasn’t only improved his life with all this international experiences, but he has also done a great job with foreign students, like Shidrokh Ebrahimi a junior student in Interior Architecture who also works in the Office of International Affairs.
“I came from Iran in 2015, he was the first person I met and I will see him accidentally everywhere. His smile and his attention to me made me feel so much better,” she said. “He made me talk to other international students to improve my communication skills, he helped me to learn how to be nice and to stand for my rights. Not only he thought me how to be successful in college but also he taught me how to live,” she said.
So while he helps international students to adapt, he feels that is his job to do the same with American students: “Now is my opportunity to encourage people to go out, to help them understand that the US has a lot to offer, but so does the rest of the world. And we can learn a lot by interacting with other people.”
This man who once thought he was Tom Sawyer and never thought he could have this adventures now reflects about how great his experiences have been and how they have changed his perception about him, his country and the world.