Category Archives: Study Abroad

what does it mean to be a global citizen?

What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?  Is it just about living in different places, exploring unfamiliar cultures? In an effort to understand the concept and how we may differ in defining it, I’ve asked for input from journalists and Reiki Masters, expats, veterans, an octogenarian and even a middle-schooler. Their answers may surprise you. 

I’ve long held a  belief in travel as a catalyst for transformation. But, often wonder if travel alone is what imbues one with a sense of contentedness. What I found in researching this piece is that travel is not necessarily the common thread, it may be something deeper. 

The following are unedited quotes given by a wide range of people, of varying ages with a tapestry of backgrounds and life experience. Some have never traveled beyond the borders of the United States, while others are global nomads. Is there a commonality in how they’ve responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”

What Does It Mean To Be A Global Citizen? 

 

“When you become a global citizen, you stop seeing people’s race and color, your home is where you are currently located, your interest in people’s culture and background is genuine and you sort of want to be a part of their experience. You stop judging people. Instead of judging, you ask such questions as “why they do things differently, why they eat different food, and wear different clothes, and behave differently in some situations.” As a citizen of the world, you look for similarities instead of differences, or try to tear down the borders instead of building them up; and then, at the end of it all, you realize how alike we all really are.”  

~ Svetlana G. (International businesswoman who has lived in Russia, Germany, Peru, Ukraine, and the US. Speaker of four languages, currently working on her fifth)

“My dad joined the military when I was 7, and it was the most important decision he ever made for our family. While the military generally skews conservative, it opened us up to experiencing people, places, religions, food, music, etc. we would never have had we stayed in Arkansas, where both my parents were born and raised. 

All that to say, being a global citizen isn’t just a progressive/liberal mindset. I’m extremely liberal now but grew up rather conservatively. Being a global citizen, at the very least, means being aware that there are other people, countries, religions, other than your own. Of course, a more progressive mindset takes it a step further, considering how the actions of our government and our own actions impact others. That is also the difference between being a global citizen and a GOOD global citizen.”

~ Brent A.  (Graphic Designer, advocate, author, blogger, husband and father) 

 “I’ve tried to teach my four kids that because they’re had access to great opportunity in the US doesn’t mean they’re entitled to success. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people who have had less opportunities are less worthy of succeeding. As the great Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” I try to instill a sense of gratitude, responsibility, and respect for all cultures.”

~ Lindsay M.  (Mom, DIYer, advocate, author, and wife of a musician) 

“A Global Citizen to me is someone who does not feel the boundaries of certain areas and has the sense of responsibility to be wary and cautious of the land and world around them. They know what needs to be done to take care of this world and they act upon it.” 

~ Tyler B. W. (Surfer, rapper, dog-dad, husband, and currently serving United States Marine)

“Having respect and compassion for people of different cultures within our borders and beyond. Recognizing that we are all of the same world and taking care of that earth and its occupants together.”

~ Julie C. (Journalist, travel expert, wife, mother and Doxie lover) 

“Global Citizenship means, connection. I have been blessed to travel and live in other countries, this has allowed me to experience different cultures and traditions.    I choose to believe that we are connected to each other by and invisible thread that I call God/Spirit.  We all share the same responsibility of nurturing and protecting the land/sea/air for future generations.  I have found although our traditions and cultures differ our consequences to this planet has an overall impact on the rest of us.”

~ Carolyn G. (Seeker, singer, mother, wife, former British expat now U.S. Citizen)

“Being in touch with the rest of the world and having concern/interest in all of our Human race brothers and sisters. None of us had a choice as to which country we would belong to when we were born.”

~ Robin R. (Manufacturing Executive, father, husband, mountain biker and veteran) 

“Global citizens feel at home in multiple locations as they roam the world, and feel the sense of belonging to others despite their cultural, racial, societal or economic or other differences. They thrive on learning new things and appreciate local cultures. At the same time – their own roots can weaken and their own cultural habits diminish as they learn and adapt to other cultures. At best global citizenship is when you teach your own culture to others as well learn from others.”

~ Katja P. (Author, Editor, expat, mother, influencer, photographer, entrepreneur, global nomad) 

“Sending aid to victims of the Mexican earthquake the same as you do the victims of Harvey or Irma. Feeling empathy towards the Palestinians and the various African people starving due to drought and war. Recognizing and celebrating the connectedness of all people from wherever they originate. And whatever your beliefs are about your creator and whatever the person on the exact opposite side of the planet (or city or state or country) believes about the creator, it is the same being. Remember that in dealing with your brothers and sisters from across the globe. And maybe someday from across the galaxy.”

~ Kevin H. (Financial planner, singer and husband)

“It means we are all on this big rock (Earth) together and we are all connected in some way even if it is only by the internet. It means knowing that we may not all agree but we will need each other at some point. Our differences can slip away over the common ground of a basic need of survival or compassion for one another. The only place that I have traveled out of the USA mainland is to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Having seen the beauty of the island and of the people, I am extremely concerned about the recent hurricanes they have been sustaining. How will this impact their way of life and the island. I am more connected having actually been there because I have first-hand knowledge of the kindness of the people who live there.

It is important not to be or become desensitized to others around the world because when we do, we become desensitized to our basic humanity.”

~ Beth F (Nurse, homeopathic wellness expert, Reiki Master) 

“It means one who is dedicated to stewardship of our planet while seeking education for them self and others through kindness and compassion.” 

~ Sarah Jane C.  (gardener, reader, enjoying life at 81 years young)

“It is when you care about people because they are people and the earth because we share it.” 

~ Emily D. (11-year-old traveler, lover of dance and her French Bulldog)

I came away from this little experiment in social consciousness with an unexpectedly profound revelation and more questions.  With such a diverse group it seemed logical that the responses would have a wide range. Yet, they really don’t. 

We seem to have an innate understanding of our own connection to one another and to our planet. Whether we’ve seen much of the world or rarely ventured beyond our hometown, we feel a sense of community in our shared humanity. But do we foster that connection, act on it, practice the understanding we have? If we don’t, why not?

In a time where so many forces seek to polarize or isolate, I see hope in our understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. With that said, I also wonder how we turn that knowledge into action. How do we move beyond answering the question and becoming true global citizens through action?  

This week I’m in New York city attending my second travel bloggers summit on study abroad and global citizenship. It is my hope to find ways – both big and small – that can help us all take meaningful action on behalf of each other. 

If you’d like to take part, follow along on social media using #StudyAbroadBecause 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

White House Travel Blogger Summit A cold rain gently fell streaking the windows with of threads of color. I stood in the State Dinning room and looked above the mantel.  As I gazed at the portrait of Lincoln, I’d never felt smaller. How did this kid from a one-tumbleweed town end up as an invited guest, standing in the same State Dinning Room where world leaders have gathered?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

Travel brought me to that moment of awe one year ago today. Attending the White House Travel Bloggers Summit was one of those surreal moments in life. I felt both humbled and emboldened.

We came from all walks of life; television personalities, editors of respected publications, thought leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs, creators, storytellers, each with stories as different as the pages of our dogeared travel journals. Yet here we were one. Each of us bonded by a shared passion for helping others understand the true power of travel as a force for change in the world.

The State Department hosted this event as a thunderclap announcement for the opening of the U.S. Study Abroad Office and to pose the question to the world… Study Abroad Because?

“…we want to ensure America’s future leaders have opportunities to experience the world beyond their border…” ~Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

In the year since the summit my family has chosen to take up the mantle of spreading the word on how travel can better the world. Be that study or volunteering abroad, connecting with the history and traditions of new places {far and near}, or welcoming others into our lives to share who we are.

My teen and I attended a virtual study abroad campus fair where we connected with educators and students from Australia to Georgia {the country not the state}, Italy to Russia. For her it was great to hear college students talk about their personal experiences, I felt bolstered by learning that these programs weren’t just about seeing the sights.

white house travel blogger summit As a family we visited the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, busting a few myths about Canada.  Immersed ourselves Georgian, Latvian, Turkish, and Jamaican cultural experiences … and food. Oh the food.

I even talked myself into being okay with the teen headed to Korea or Russia this summer to study language in an immersion program. Okay, if we’re being honest a small part of me still hopes she doesn’t get in… my baby alone in a foreign land?! Practicing what you preach is tough, yo!  

The best part of the last year though has been getting to know my fellow summit attendees and following along as they make the world a smaller place.

white house travel blogger summitCome join the journey…

Why Taking My Daughter to Haiti Was an Investment in Her Future as a Global Citizen – Leticia Barr

White House Travel Blogger Summit Miniseries – from Nathaniel Boyle’s Daily Travel Podcast

Finding the Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship at the Center of Dalí’s Universe – Brad Bernard

Life Coming Full Circle at the White House Travel Blogger Summit – Colleen Lanin

My Turkish Love Affair – Elena Sonnino

The Moment That Cuba Opened Its Secret To Me – Lillie Marshal

15 Lessons I Learned from Traveling Around the World – Angie Orth

Emotional Travel: Revisiting Places of Personal Importance in 2015 – Matt Long

New Year, New Life: You’re Never Too Old to Study Abroad – Jackie Laulainen (for Yahoo Travel)
Study Abroad Because… There are experiences out there that will totally change your life for the better – A Wandering Educators Student Interview
Why Your Teen High School Student Should Go Abroad (The Parent’s Guide) – Dr. Jessie Voights
 

“Travel can change you. It should change you.” ~ Brad Bernard MyWanderList

Visit Turkey For the coffee, and more…

Traditional Turkish Coffee and famed Turkish Delight - perfect for sharing with friendsCoffee – the ultimate conversation starter- has a long and storied history of being present where great things have begun. There was a cup of coffee on the table the first time I met Jessie.  It sat nearly untouched as I shared in one of the best conversations I’ve ever had about the importance of travel, its power to transform, elevate and educate.

My time with an immensely talented and passionate group of travel bloggers – including Jessie- at the White House Travel Bloggers Summit has taken me down paths I’d never imagined. Beyond that though, it has connected me with a group of people who prove that travel is a force that changes perceptions, challenges stereotypes, and brings us together in a way that nothing else can. 

I’ve yet to recover from the fact that life tossed a wrench into my plans to join the group on their recent voyage to Turkey.  {darn you, life!} While still laboring under the delusion that I’d be going, I was surprised at some of the questions that came my way.  This one came up more than several times;

“Aren’t you afraid to go to Turkey? I mean, isn’t it dangerous?”

Let’s be honest, there are some places that you might want to take extra precautions when traveling to {Antarctica comes to mind – frostbite is serious, people!}  In the end though, danger lurks right outside your door, if you let fear get the better of you it’s going to be rough to ever go anywhere. I had (have) zero fears about visiting Turkey.

Being that I couldn’t make the trip – this time! – I asked Jessie if she’d share some of the experience in a guest post. {She said YES! OMG!!!} I’m over the moon about this, enjoy! 

Stunning frescos and architecture inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Why Travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Turkey is a relatively new country (although an ancient and diverse culture)? This area was known as Anatolia and Thrace, and ruled by many empires, including the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Seljuk. It wasn’t until after World War I that the movement for Turkish nationalism gained momentum, and in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was globally recognized. The first president of Turkey was Mustafa Kemal, also known as Atatürk (father of the Turks). Wherever you go in Turkey, Atatürk is revered for his vision for the country, for his efforts at civil and political rights for all, and for his forward-thinking methods of economic independence. Wherever you go, a photo of Atatürk will be there, showing how important he is to the Turkish people.

Sultanahmet Camii - The Blue Mosque - Istanbul, TurkeyBut what’s it really like, to travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world, and is larger than New York City (which is ranked #21)? It’s amazing to be there – Istanbul straddles two continents: Europe and Asia, and around every corner, history is present. You can be driving in crazy rush hour traffic, and see marine life on the Bosphorus on one side, and millennia-old walls on the other. You can find bookstores and lemonade cafes, international cuisine and simit carts and doner kebab stands, global goods and Turkish rugs (and fresh Turkish delight, swoon!). Every local I talked with, though they loved Istanbul, often went home, to the country.

Widen Your World - start with a tasty Simit served fresh from a cart in IstanbulFor here is what is amazing: even dedicated city people like Istanbulites feel a very strong connection to home, in the country. They go home as often as they can, to visit their families, to be home, to enjoy the beautiful countryside, to center themselves in their culture, to be reminded that family is everything.

And Turkey is incredibly beautiful. From Ephesus and the Aegean Sea to Sanliurfa near the Syrian border, Turkey shows its true nature: gorgeous, diverse landscapes and, of course, the famous Turkish hospitality.

If you’ve never experienced Turkish hospitality, let me explain why it is the main reason you want to visit Turkey. Turkish hospitality shows itself in many ways – from being invited over for coffee, taken out for a meal, helped in various ways, shown immense kindness, and being the recipient of Turkish generosity and compassion. Why? Turkish people believe that all visitors are guests sent by God. They honor guests by taking care of them, by learning about and from them. I never imagined it to be as complete and widespread, though, as I experienced it. The Turkish people I met went above and beyond to accommodate my disabilities, to talk with me, to teach me, and to care for me. It changed my mind about Turkey – a place I’d always wanted to visit – and turned it into a country I love, and a culture I can’t wait to get back to.

Why visit Turkey? The people. You’ll never meet a friendlier, more caring culture.

Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White
Some of the White House Travel Bloggers gathered in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White

More About Jessie

Jessie {or Dr. Jessie as I call her since she does have a PhD in International Education – boom!} is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world, and Journey to Scotland, a travel site for her favorite place in the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. If you can ever have coffee with her – do!