Never a place: Global citizenship in the modern world

TCU’s mission statement is “to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.”

My classes at TCU, which focus on providing a diverse cultural education, and my three months abroad in Spain have taught me what it means to be a global citizen. I have learned that a global citizen takes other cultural perspectives into account. Living as a citizen of the world means striving to be both knowledgeable and open-minded about other cultural customs and ways of life. It’s silly to expect everyone on earth to abide by American norms, just as it would be to expect everyone to take a siesta and eat at 9:00 pm every night.

The week before Easter, Semana Santa (or “Holy Week”), is a time of lavish celebrations and solemn parades throughout Sevilla. Semana Santa is one of the awesome cultural experiences that only study abroad can offer.

According to a World Values Survey, an average of 72% of people polled considered themselves “global citizens” (Kull 27). Our world is moving toward a global society, and hopefully more and more people will realize that petty conflicts and meaningless divisions between ethnicities, religions, and other cultural markers will get us nowhere. To live in harmony, our global community must learn to listen to each other and get along, despite (and perhaps because of) our cultural differences.

Global citizens identify with a “global community” more than they do with a particular nation. Living and traveling in Europe has opened my eyes to the interconnected nature of our world today. Maybe because the European Union is so small and easy to traverse, it’s easy to see how national identity can be overridden by membership in the global community. When a German plane crashed in the Alps recently, Spaniards mourned the passengers just as Germans did. Living and studying side by side with people of all nationalities makes you realize just how small our world has become. Cultural intelligence requires knowledge of other cultures, the practice of mindfulness (being aware of our own assumptions, noticing others’ assumptions and behavior, and perceiving a situation from multiple perspectives), and acquiring cross-cultural skills (Thomas & Inkson 176). I believe I have begun to acquire cultural intelligence through all of these means.

I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to study in Sevilla, not just because of the delicious food and the easy access to Paris, London, and Barcelona. The true value of my study abroad experience lies in learning to see the world through new eyes–not the eyes of a sheltered American student, but the eyes of a well-traveled citizen of the world.

Before I studied abroad, I never would have dreamed of hopping on a plane all by myself to see one of my closest friends, just because I had a week off of school. Studying in Europe has made me appreciate how easy travel is.

I may still be young, but my experiences navigating the Paris underground, drinking at a pub with Oxford students, and tutoring my Spanish host brother in English have prepared me for a lifetime of cultural understanding. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to travel so extensively in my life, but if I do (and even if I stay in the melting pot of the U.S.) I’ll be prepared to set aside my prejudices and expectations in favor of a more open-minded approach.

Whether it’s Morocco or Japan, other cultures should be something new and fantastic to be admired and, sometimes, adopted. I’ve always been a fan of learning–a global education is just another way to improve one’s knowledge.

[Note: The title of this blog post–and this blog–comes from a quote by Henry Miller: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”]

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