True Globalcitizenship

Alex - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 20, 2008

When I found out the topic of this journal I was not excited at all. I just completed a paper for my globalization and culture class about my definition of a global citizen and how I thought I had not yet become one. As I sat down to begin this essay my brain flat lined. I hadn’t noticed any real change within myself since our return from India. Before we left for “war”, as Brian says, my definition of a global citizen was someone who is aware of the existence of a wider world and takes responsibility for their actions and the role they play within our increasingly cosmopolitan society. There exist so many levels one must reach in order to become a global citizen. I believe a true global citizen is someone who truly understands and cares about our globalizing world on all levels, be they economic, environmental, technological, religious, social, political, the list is endless. A true global citizen is hard to come by because to carry with you the amount of passion necessary to truly be a citizen of the world is an extremely draining process.

Soon after beginning this journal I realized that the reason I felt no change within myself after returning from India was not a result of no change occurring but rather a lack of time to sit back and participate in some serious introspection. I now realize that since returning from India my definition of a global citizen has transformed but it still encompasses most of my previously outlined attributes. Before I left for the trip I had convinced myself that I was not a global citizen and most likely would never become one. I felt weighted down by my fear as well as certain selfish tendencies. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world and experience so many things that many eighteen year olds could only dream about. My family does participate in the typical guided tour but we are by no means unadventurous. We explore many cities on our own, spend time with locals, and we try to immerse ourselves into the culture, at least as much immersion as is possible on a ten day family vacation. Despite all of this I never felt that I had ever truly become immersed into another culture. Even when I lived in rural Mexico for six weeks, I was unable to let go of my life at home, and although I believe I came closer than I ever have before to reaching some level of global citizenship on that particular trip, ultimately my fear of the unknown took hold and anchored me down. I have no one to blame but myself for this lack of cultural immersion and I can only hope to continue to travel and slowly bring my inner global citizen to the surface.

While in India I do believe that once again my connection to home and my selfishness took the reins and in the beginning I unable to let myself be engulfed by the experience. In the beginning the food was too spicy, the men on the airplane smelled, I wanted to wear t-shirts and jeans, and the list of selfish complaints continued. But after being a part of the culture, traveling to the Aids & Leprosy Clinic, going to the Taj Mahal, teaching classes at the school, and even dancing at the night club in our hotel, I truly felt that I was a part of India. Never before have I felt so uncomfortable and yet completely at home at the exact same moment. Despite the constant photographs, stares, and whispers I did feel that many of the people did except us and truly wanted us to be there. To me that marks the beginning of a transformation. I may not be a global citizen now and I may never become one but what matters most is that right now I am taking a step up little by little dissolving that fear. I believe it is because of India that I have been able to let go of the chains of fear which for so many years have held me prisoner beneath an unbreakable barrier. There is still fear and there is still self-centeredness but that load has been lightened and it is due hugely to the citizens of India, the global citizen group, and of course our adult mentors on the trip.

A global citizen doesn’t need to travel. They only need to truly care about the rest of the world and truly want to become a part of it. Global Citizenship is a privilege and an honor not a right and most definitely not something that is easily achieved. I am living proof that traveling does not a global citizen make but rather the people who you surround yourself with and the limits you are willing to push yourself to.