Can you think back to high school when you had the opportunity to go on that language exchange program but instead you spent that week riding your bike around your neighborhood trails and playing video games. Maybe for lack of resources or maybe lack of interest, either way when those kids came back they seemed to have learned more than just a language. They learned a new way of living, acting, being.
So why were those cultural experiences so important? And how might that have been the beginning of shaping global citizens?
The lessons you learn from traveling abroad, immersing yourself in other cultures, trying to communicate and become accepted by a new group of people is nothing short of life changing. One learns a new set of skills, a new ability to adapt to unknown situations and question one’s own reality.
This is the beginning of a cultural awareness that shapes global citizens. The aim of global citizenship is nothing short of “nurturing respect for all, building a sense of belonging to a common humanity and helping learners become responsible and active global citizens.” UN
In the essay “Global Citizenship: What Are We Talking About and Why Does It Matter?” Madeleine F. Green, Ph.D. writes, “National citizenship is an accident of birth; global citizenship is different. It is a voluntary association.”
To be a global citizen means to have:
a passion for engaging with people from different backgrounds
to be adaptable to different experiences and environments
And an appreciation for diversity.
When you are a global citizen, you possess a dedication to addressing the world's collective concerns, such as climate change and biases like racism.
When we begin to understand and acknowledge our place within the world around us - including our privileges, our experiences and how our actions can affect global events in both small and notable ways, we are gradually transforming ourselves into becoming global citizens.
Global Citizenship gives us an opportunity to explore different experiences, ideologies, and cultures while still recognizing the uniqueness of our own culture.
What are the values of global citizenship?
According to UNESCO, it “aims to instill in learners the values, attitudes and behaviours that support responsible global citizenship: creativity, innovation, and commitment to peace, human rights and sustainable development.”
Let’s focus on human rights for a moment. As a global citizen who is aware of the human rights abuses across the globe and in one’s own backyard, one could easily connect the dots to movements like anti-racism education and awareness as an area global citizens would excel at. So the question begs, are global citizens by default anti-racist?
Being anti-racist simply means you understand that racism is real, not just in America and in Canada, but in any one of the numerous multicultural countries in the World. It may look and feel different, but it rears its ugly head at the best of times when opportunities are ripe, and the worst of times like war time hysteria.
So what does being a global citizen have to do with being anti-racist? Once you know this truth, and begin to find ways to reduce the negative effects of racism through consistent work to demolish racist structures, one could say you’re anti-racist.
Why is it important to be a global citizen?
Being a Global Citizen can be powerful, because a globally-minded individual who takes political, social, environmental and economic actions is going to impact communities on a world wide scale.
For example, while the United States holds the title of the democratic nation of the world, it is founded on white supremacy. The inferred implication of that is systemic racism; presented like a thread sewn into every facet of America’s society. Think health care, education, housing, and wealth distribution. The Black, Indigenous, Asian and coloured communities face microaggressions and more overt forms of racism throughout their lives.
It’s a painful fact, and the reason you would find marches and protests against actions that — sometimes — look like they were obviously targeted at undermining the humanity of non-white heritage.
Anti-black racism is one of the many biases someone who thinks and acts like a global citizen would be aware of and working to resolve, because the ideas presented by global citizenship are meant to be empowering and equitable for all. Thinking and viewing the world beyond the confines of your — sometimes — limited experiences has proven for many to be a fruitful idea.
How do you become a global citizen?
While learning about other cultures is an excellent recipe for becoming a true global citizen, there’s more. Absorbing new experiences, language, traditions, and culture of people in other parts of the world, is what helps you get there.
So, the big question becomes how can you gain the opportunities that provide you access to that learning, that lifestyle?
During conversations like this, “travel” is a word that comes up a lot — and rightly so.
Think about this. How else can you meet new people of varying cultural experiences, and get a rich initiation into their way of life without actually living it?
However, some would argue differently and tell you that technology provides a way to become a global citizen through online meet-up opportunities.
That argument holds only a little worth. Because through close inspection it’s simple to see how behind-the-screen experiences do not give you a true picture of how people live, how and what they eat, how they celebrate events, and how your thought process and conclusions are different even in common, similar situations, among other things.
To put it simply, if you want to get a new perspective, you have to experience something from a different vantage point. Take yourself out of your normal environment in order to perceive the world differently.
Are you ready to make such a commitment to yourself? You must be able to make continual attempts to comprehend diverse elements and opinions that might impact our lives on a global scale. Global citizenship is a way of life, a thought process from a global perspective, but also a tool to gain more freedom. Many use global citizenship to minimize the restraints one country has on them and gain one's liberties and financial autonomy by moving around more.
And others believe it is the fullest way of living - open to embrace what the world has to offer, and willing to sacrifice in order to protect it.
Where do you stand?