Stamp-filled passports lay open. Much like a passport, the journey toward global citizenship is like collecting stamps — gathering diverse perspectives in the pursuit of a holistic worldview.
The globe has 195 countries, 19,495 cities and 7.753 billion people.
With a world population that large, global citizenship may be a hard concept to comprehend.
However, those who take on the charge of global citizenship understand the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and getting to know other cultures and nationalities. To them, the goal is to expand their horizons and gain empathy for others.
“To be a global citizen, you need to be able to both appreciate diversity, be curious about it, and then be willing to use that appreciation to work together for some common goals that we share as humans on a shared planet,” said Brian Swarts, director of Pepperdine’s Washington, D.C., program.
Defining global citizenship
Blake Farley, Pepperdine Global Fellow and senior Religion major, said he believes global citizenship means being a part of a bigger and more diverse culture than the one he lives in. Farley practices global citizenship by traveling to other countries and serving people in other cultures.
“Being a global citizen means that I belong in a community with more people than I even know,” Farley said. “And more people than I’m even familiar with, and people who do see the world very differently than me. I think that [it’s] an exciting opportunity to be a global citizen.”
Pepperdine community members characterized global citizenship as the skill of interacting with diverse cultures and remaining cognizant of current events globally.
Swarts said global citizenship is the idea that everyone plays a part in the country they inhabit, and everyone has the responsibility to contribute to their communities and the communities they may not typically interact with.
“Global citizenship, in my mind, is about people who are committed to cross-cultural engagement and understanding,” Swarts said. “It is about a commitment to shared goals in common and the common good.”
It is easy for people to get set in what they know and forget that there are people who live differently than them, Swarts said. To him, a part of global citizenship is engaging with different cultures instead of being set in one circle of people.
“From a white American perspective, or from any dominant group, when you’re not engaged with people that are different from you then they almost don’t exist in your world,” Swarts said.
Sophomore International Studies major Izzy Lindstrom agreed and said global citizenship means embracing authenticity and appreciation for other nationalities to avoid ethnocentrism — the concept of putting one’s own culture above other’s cultures. Lindstrom practices good global citizenship by getting to know people from other cultures and learning about their beliefs and opinions without judgment.
“It’s just having respect for other cultures and understanding that what’s normal to us may not be normal to another culture,” Lindstrom said.
The head, the heart and the hand
International Programs Dean Beth Laux said being a good global citizen comes in three parts — the head, the heart and the hand.
The head of global citizenship is being knowledgeable about different cultural traditions and history, as well as having familiarity with global trends. The second is the heart, which is having a global worldview and being open-minded to learn about new cultures and new perspectives. The third is the hand — the behavior-driven aspect of global citizenship. Laux said the hand causes people to gain global competence across cultures and learn adaptability, situational awareness and problem-solving skills.
“Just engaging with people who are very different [from] oneself is a way to start building those skills and those capacities,” Laux said.
Swarts said being a responsible global citizen starts with people knowing themselves and understanding their own culture and identity, so they can share that with others and get to know them better.
“Each of us has a story and a role to play within global citizenship,” Swarts said. “What that looks like and figuring out what that is is unique to each of us.”
Engaging with other people who have different beliefs is also a vital aspect of being a good citizen, Swarts said.
“That can be as extreme as somebody who’s from a completely different religion, or a different part of the world like let’s say, a refugee, or an immigrant, somebody who’s like an international student,” Swarts said. “To something as simple as somebody who came from a different part of the country.”
World citizenship in practice: The Global Fellows program
Farley studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Washington, D.C., with the Global Fellows program, whose mission is to equip and empower a community of purpose-driven, global leaders to be agents of change through integrated professional development, intercultural learning and academic excellence.
All students participating in the Global Fellows program are required to spend one year overseas and one semester in Washington, D.C. They are also required to enroll in 22-23 units of courses revolving around global citizenship and foreign languages.
“[The] Global Fellows program itself is for students who want to take really a step further in the abroad experience and learn what it means to be a global citizen,” Farley said.
Global Fellows trains individuals about global citizenship and how to be responsible citizens living in America, Farley said.
“I’ve certainly learned how to more critically see things like the news,” Farley said. “And the way some organizations step out and look for ways to help in certain global issues or just in certain communities.”
Laux currently oversees the Global Fellows program and said it is a great way for Pepperdine community members to learn valuable global citizenship skills.
”It helps them [Global Fellows] create and lead and communicate effectively across cultures, which is key to being change makers in today’s society,” Laux said. “It’s just an opportunity to collaborate and construct a future that we all can work toward with other communities.”
Practicing global citizenship domestically
While individuals can learn to be a global citizen through larger experiences like traveling and studying abroad, there are also ways people can expand their horizons and be good global citizens from their homes.
Farley recommended people talk with as many people as they can, stay educated on current world issues and look for ways to serve in their communities.
Lindstrom also said the best way to be a good global citizen is to stay educated on what is going on in the world, and do as much research as people can on different nationalities and cultures.
“If you want to appreciate a culture and have respect for it, you got to know what’s going on,” Lindstrom said.
Another vital step to being a good global citizen is to change the focus from oneself and one’s own country to other people and their countries, Swarts said.
“Listen to what people are saying, not just about us, but about themselves,” Swarts said. “Letting other people define themselves rather than going off of definitions that maybe we’ve gotten in school or definitions that we got from popular culture.”
In addition, Lindstrom said it’s important to recognize that while being a global citizen may push individuals out of their comfort zones, it also expands people’s horizons and informs individuals on how people from diverse cultures live.
“We have a responsibility to understand what the impact of our actions and our choices is,” Laux said. “And to make sure that we are thinking through all of the different variables that impact communities worldwide.”
Email Abby Wilt: email@example.com.