International psychology is a recurring theme in my career. I find it very interesting because it is something I had not initially pursued and, in fact, seemed to stumble into. Two years after I earned my doctoral degree, I had a fellowship during which I found myself interacting a great deal with a psychologist from the Netherlands. Perhaps it was talking about research with someone from another country that made me realize that I never really pursued learning more about research outside of the United States and Canada. Later, I received a teaching and research Fulbright position in Russia. As a result of these and other experiences, I have become very interested in ways of improving the world-wide communication of psychological science.
There are a number of ways Psi Chi members and chapters can be involved in furthering international psychology. One way is illustrated by a service project that my chapter has engaged in for a number of years. Many times, you will see professors trying to give away textbooks and professional books that they no longer want. Our Psi Chi chapter has collected these books and sent them to schools in Asia that were in need of psychology material through the Bridge to Asia program. Bridge to Asia (BTA) "promotes equal access to knowledge" by supplying books, journals, databases, and other educational materials important for teaching and conducting research but too expensive for developing countries to obtain. To date, BTA has supplied over 1,000 schools with six million books over a 16-year operation and is the largest program of its kind in China. You can find information about BTA online at www.bridge.org. Sometimes colleges and universities have formal relationships with schools in other countries. Chapters can use these ties to provide needed material as well. George Fox University, for example, has a relationship with Daystar University in Africa and we have sent psychology books to its library.
Another way to give material to schools abroad is through faculty members. Sometimes faculty members are from other countries and return to their home country for a portion of the summer. Other times, faculty members receive an award like a Fulbright or other type of fellowship that allows them to work in other countries. This is how my chapter provided texts, professional books, and teaching supplies to a school in Russia. Therefore, there are numerous ways to help promote psychology by distributing information to places that are in need. However, it is important to remember that we have a tremendous amount to learn from psychologists in other countries.
One way to learn from psychologists from other countries is to spend time with them. There are several international programs you can become familiar with if you have not done so already. The International Research & Exchanges Board (commonly referred to as IREX) is "an international nonprofit organization specializing in education, independent media, Internet development, and civil society programs." IREX uses training, partnerships, education, research, and grants to develop "the capacity of individuals and institutions to contribute to their societies." Over 15,000 individuals including students, scholars, policymakers, business leaders, journalists, and other professionals have been supported by IREX since it was founded in 1968. Visit the IREX website (www.irex.org) to learn more about its programs.
You can also learn more about the Fulbright Program at www.iie.org. This program was established in 1946 "to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills." The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the United States Department of State, provides funds for students, scholars, and professionals to engage in graduate study, advanced research, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools in addition to universities. As Psi Chi members, you are an excellent candidate for either of these programs. However, an important tip that can increase your chances of securing a position in one of these programs is to examine the application rate by country. Positions in certain countries are more sought after than positions in other countries. Obviously, the more desirable a position in a particular country is, the more competitive that position becomes. Therefore, you can improve your chances of obtaining an IREX grant or Fulbright award by applying to a country that is appealing to you but not among the list of most-applied-to countries.
Finally, you may not be able to go to another country, but you can read research articles from researchers in other countries. In fact, your library may subscribe to several international or European journals that contain articles primarily from researchers in countries other than the United States. It is very interesting to look at the trends in foreign research. When I was in Russia, for instance, I spent a great deal of time in the library examining all the Russian psychology journals published within a three-year window. As a cognitive psychologist, I was disappointed to find that basic cognitive research was not common. Most of the research dealt with developmental psychology, learning, and human agency. Russian psychologists also seemed to spend more time developing theories than we do today in the United States. The Internet is beginning to make it easier to disseminate and read research from foreign psychologists. Perhaps one of the most promising online ventures is Psicologica (www.uv.es/psicologica). Psicologica was originally published in 1980. The journal publishes articles in research methodology and experimental psychology. Two issues are published per year by the Department of Methodology of the Behavioral Sciences of the University of Valencia (Spain) in both English and Spanish.
The suggestions presented in this article represent some, but not all, of the ways you can become involved in international psychology as an individual and as a chapter. You may not choose one of the ways I mentioned to become involved in international psychology. However, I think it is important that you do become involved at some level. Technological advances over the last several years play an important role in globalization. As the barriers that once stood in the way of international exchange and collaboration continue to decline, the opportunity to have an impact on and benefit from international psychology will increase. Be prepared to contribute to this effort by becoming involved early. It will challenge how you think about psychology by providing different perspectives on the problems we deal with as psychologists.
Bridge to Asia: www.bridge.org