We all live in more than one community. Our immediate communities, like our family, friendship circles, schools, universities, and places of work or worship. Broader communities, like our neighbourhood or town. And a global community, as citizens of the world. We all belong to the same planet, and that planet belongs to all of us.
But what does it mean to be a global citizen, and what can each of us do with the power and privilege that comes from being part of a global community?
What is a global citizen?
If you are someone who understands that you are a part of a broader world-wide community, and who feels that you have a positive contribution to make to that community, then you are a global citizen.
Global citizens respect and value that we all live in a complex and diverse system of interdependent communities who have a right to exist in a just, equal, and healthy world. Global citizens are curious, creative, and committed to participating in the mission to build such a world, and to contribute where they can to causes that empower and enable it.
Why become a global citizen?
Borders have been much easier to cross for decades. Ideas and cultures are no longer contained within them, travelling between them has never been easier, and international political systems affect all of us – not only the kind of lives we want to live now, but the lives of future generations, too.
Global issues – like impending climate disaster, sustainable development, correcting historical injustices, human rights protections, access to democracy, healthcare and education, equitable resource distribution, and safeguarding cultural diversity – affect all of us. They can only be solved if we work together. These are collective problems, and they require collective action.
How to become a global citizen
To become a global citizen you’ll have to be creative, adaptable, and dedicated. Global citizens are involved and proactive members of the international community and are committed to building this community in meaningful and positive ways. This means that aspiring global citizens need to develop problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These skills are essential to professional and personal development.
So, where do you start? Well …
1) Get inspired
It all starts with questions. Where do you want to go? What kind of adventure would you like to have? What would you like to learn about? How do you want to help?
Find inspiration in books, maps, documentaries, movies, podca
sts, and your social feeds. There are hundreds of countries and thousands of cultures and communities to visit. Which of these will push you out of your comfort zone? Which of these will expand your mind?
2) Broaden your perspectives
Satisfy your curiosity by getting to know the places and people that fascinate you. Take some courses at your high school or college. Start building a knowledge base of different cultures, ideas, and ways of life. Join international clubs, learn a new language, or make friends with people from other parts of the world who have come to live in your community. Have cultural exchanges where you swap stories, recipes, and travel tips. Or connect virtually with people in different parts of the world who can share local on-the-ground knowledge with you.
We have so much to teach each other, and so much to learn.
3) Stay informed
Read globally-minded news sources and pay attention to current events in places you’d potentially like to visit. Engage in conversations about other parts of the world. What kind of debates are they having? What issues are they facing? What solutions are they proposing?
Exposing yourself to global trends and global conversations will help you narrow down the areas and issues you care most about, or want to get most involved with. And the more internationally involved you get, the better equipped you’ll be with global skills for future career success. It’s important that you stay plugged in, as international trends continue to expand and shift.
4) Travel abroad
Experience everything you’ve heard and read about first hand. Find programs that allow you to study and live abroad, perhaps even with an internship component, for increased mentorship and skills development. If these opportunities include a language-learning option, even better!
Experience living and working abroad will not only be an adventure and a chance to deepen your understanding of the world, but will also help you develop critical personal and professional skills that will set you up for future success no matter where you eventually choose to settle.
5) Become a leader
To develop your abilities, organise or lead international travel groups. Plan your own trips, and coordinate responsible group travel and study options with your peers. This is also a great way to get more involved with the international community. Attend international conferences, participate in international internships, and continue to read up on cross-cultural skills in the work environment from trusted sources.
6) Plan for your future as a global citizen
Don’t forget to let your interests guide you! Nearly every topic of academic study can include and benefit from an international component, and this can help you become a more globally minded citizen.
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Disclaimer: The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.