Throughout the past few weeks that we’ve all been together, many of us have bonded over sharing stories about our past travel. We hope to tell a story more exciting and thrilling than the previous one, proving our experience with different perspectives and encounters with people who are different from ourselves, and asserting ourselves as weathered “global citizens,” as though it was something that came from the sheer number of places that we’ve visited. I have to admit: in the past, I have had a notably narrow vision of what it means to be a global citizen. To me, it meant traveling to different areas and experiencing different cultures, exploring all that the world has to offer in-person. With this in mind, I felt rather proud of myself; I have traveled to a number of countries and experienced many different ways of living, and, therefore, felt fairly justified in distinguishing myself as a “global citizen,” albeit a young one with many things yet to learn. In following the logical extension of this approach, I believed that only people who had the economic and social power to travel to different places in the world were able to achieve the title of a responsible and considerate global citizen. I see clearly now the many fallacies in this line of thinking.
To be a global citizen is to be a living being; to be a responsible and empathetic global citizen is, in its simplest form, to harbor a profound love for the world in which you exist. To be frank, it has very little to do with traveling. The most fundamental global citizens are those who value equity, understanding, and humanity. Those who fight for access to clean water, who aspire to live sustainably and in harmony with our planet. Those who advocate for and amplify the voices of people who may not have as much institutional power. Those who aim to preserve the myriad cultures of our planet whose exposure to globalization and colonization has endangered the existence of ancient languages and customs. Those who question the validity of power structures that depend on oppression, and those who maintain a genuine and deep love for the world in which we all live. You cannot express your global citizenship through a checklist of countries to which you’ve been; rather, it is an all-encompassing and ideological commitment to preserving and supporting the extreme diversity and beauty that makes our world such a magnificent place.
I remind myself to listen more than I speak, and that it is most important to never stop wondering and striving to learn. I hope to be able to call myself more of an empathetic, understanding, and knowledgeable human being and global citizen with each day of my life.