What is Global Citizenship?

Connection across cultures is a crucial component in fostering empathy on a global scale. As such, broadening one’s horizons and stepping out of your own experience is essential in order to develop empathy for others.

One way to achieve this goal is by diving head first into global citizenship. But what does global citizenship mean? How do you become a global citizen? Let’s look into the answers to these questions, as well as some of the ways in which you can expand your global citizenship education.

Global Citizenship

What is global citizenship?

While it may mean different things to different people, the most common global citizenship definition is the idea that all people have civic responsibilities to the world as a whole, rather than just their local communities or countries. So, by expanding one’s personal horizons through global learning, you are able to effect change in a more meaningful sense on both a small and larger scale.

What does it mean to be a global citizen?

Global citizenship is more than a title — it’s a mindset. In the emerging digital world, will you choose to be connected? The international community is getting closer and closer, yet if one chooses not to act, it’s easy to stay in a bubble. Ask yourself — what communities am I a part of? Your answers could include your home, school, work, or literal neighborhood — expanding that into the world community is what makes you a global citizen. In these “small” communities, you might exchange ideas with a friend or help out a coworker with a problem. Being a global citizen simply means a willingness to do this with people from different nations and cultural backgrounds.

You may feel like you don’t have enough to offer. It’s tempting to think you have to travel to a new country every month or fight for social justice to define yourself as a “global citizen.” This misses the mark. The global citizen definition you should use is more about being connected and garnering an understanding of cultures beyond your own. This looks different for different people. What does it mean to be a global citizen for you? It could start with something as simple as researching a new country or making friends with an immigrant neighbor. It could end with traveling abroad and helping with the education of young students. Fighting for human rights and economic development is great, but it should be a side effect of feeling like a member of the international community, of being a global citizen.

So then, how does one become a global citizen? What do you have to do in order to get this kind of global education and world mindset? When people make the decision to become global citizens, they have already made a step in the right direction towards expanding their global awareness, but there are some things — both small and large — that you personally can do to take steps towards creating global citizenship in your own life. Here are just a few.

Learn About the World Even before you hop into international travel, there are ways in which you can learn about the world. The internet is a wonderful resource, and a massive web of information is available with just a few clicks or taps of your finger. If you cannot visit specific countries or cultures, with the internet, you still have a way to learn and understand their experiences. This could be through reading, but also through connecting with others across the world and talking with them about your shared and contrasting life experiences. Did you know you can be an online tutor to young international students? Have you ever sought out twitter accounts of people from different countries? It’s easy to get close to people from different cultural backgrounds. Try to understand issues that you do not face regularly, and explore things outside of your regular purview. With the technology that is now available to us, it is not too much of a stretch for anyone to become more of a global citizen.

Learn About Yourself Being a part of any community involves giving and receiving. As you learn about the world, you should see some mindsets change, and you may see other desires amplify. Are you passionate about social or political involvement? Do you wish you could alleviate poverty? Do you have the skills to teach English online or help on an organic farm? Knowing what you care about and what you want to offer to the world will help you find your own global citizen definition. You’ll quickly find that you have something to offer — and the power to impact lives.

Travel One of the best ways to become a citizen of the world is, naturally, to get out and go see it. Traveling to other countries can provide you with invaluable experience and education through interacting with other cultures. Sustainable life lessons are often borne of these kinds of travel experiences, allowing you to learn about topics like global health, interdependence, diversity, social justice and more through your lived experiences while abroad.

Become a Leader Many people point to the current crisis of leadership as evidence that we need to be doing more to build up the leaders of tomorrow. It is said that ideas don’t change the world, leaders do. Leaders with more diverse life experiences and greater empathy are desperately needed. By working on cultivating your personal leadership skills you may be able to contribute more, through becoming a leader who can focus and take action on things that feel the most important to you.

Why Global Citizen Year?

Taking a gap year with Global Citizen year will help you accomplish each of these things as you learn how to be a global citizen. Why take a gap year? Global Citizen Year helps fellows to arrive in a place where they can learn and grow, and then in turn move the world forward through their experiences.

By taking some time between high school and college to travel to a different country and experience a completely different culture you are able to appreciate the differences, but more importantly the similarities, among people. You will be immersed in your destination, learning a new language with native speakers, living with a host family, and developing new life skills that will stay with you when you return. What’s more, you will be able to more fully prepare for college and your future professional life with the mindset of a leader and a global citizen.

Ultimately, the effort you put into becoming a global citizen is something that will benefit both yourself, and the other people with whom you come into contact; a gap year is a great way to put yourself on the path towards that global citizenship. Learn more about Global Citizen Year and start your application now.

“To me, a global citizen is someone who seeks to engage with and has great respect for communities that are very different than their own, whether those be actually international communities or even communities within your own -- within your own country, that you are not very familiar with. The key components are respect and a willingness and in fact a desire to really engage with those communities, engage those differences, and learn from them and kind of revel in the differences that exist.”

  • Jordan Lee, Yale University '17, Global Citizen Year Alumnus '13

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