global citizens - we're all in this toget
There are many reasons to study abroad. I could list an exhaustive mess of bullets below and call it a day. But instead, I’m going to share a little bit about my story.
I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain in spring 2015, and I look back at my college experience and my personal milestones now from a “pre” and “post”-Spain perspective. I had a harder time transitioning to college than I anticipated (and allowed others to perceive), and partially sought study abroad plans as something to look forward to... and, being a Spanish major, not going abroad seemed like such an opportunity lost.
Studying abroad ended up being a pivotal time of learning and seeking something beyond my comfort zone. (And don’t worry - I loved college. You can read that story here.)
Aside from the language development, I learned a lot about the difference between being alone versus being lonely; how different cultures give and accept care and love; how important it is to ask questions; the value of doing new things; the value and dynamic of family; the power of genuine friendship; the importance of having an open mind, and the list goes on. It shaped me as a person to be more confident, curious and open to things that maybe aren’t on my radar or in my little world bubble.
It taught me that I have the power to help build relationships, take action and do more. If I didn’t wake up early to go for a morning walk with my host mom, then I didn’t go, didn’t get that extra language practice, didn’t contribute to building that relationship, etc. I think it is easy to stick to what is on my radar only, rather than taking the time to really think deeply and act more sincerely. If I didn't go read by the river with the locals, I'd never get to know them or learn more about their lifestyle.
Since then, I’ve been trying to be as much of a ‘global citizen’ as much as I can.
I’m a firm believer that being a global citizen is more important now than ever. We need to raise our hands when someone asks for help. We need to call our local civic leaders if we have thoughts on an upcoming decision. Heck - we just need to think a little bigger than ourselves. I’m so guilty of getting wrapped up in the world of me: party of one. I tend to let my job, what my friends are doing, how busy my schedule is, my resources dictate things - or I use them as an excuse or a crutch. But with each scary headline, the more I’m looking into ways to do more in my community and help make at least one person’s life a little easier or better. The actions of a global citizen go hand-in-hand with the attitude of a global citizen. And this weekend I had the privilege to meet so many inspiring people who thrive on this mission to see the world and embrace cultures, initiatives, and ideas to help make this big planet a small, connected world.
In college, I blogged for The College Tourist. This weekend I got to reconnect with them and their mission to encourage students to take the leap and go abroad to experience these challenges and experiences for themselves at the Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship here in New York City. The theme centered around #StudyAbroadBecause... Something that really stood out to me was the fact that only 10 percent of American college students study abroad, and even fewer study in an immersive language program. Just 10 percent.
What better way to raise awareness of this than to put 100 travel bloggers in a room in NYC and align these ideas with Global Citizen Festival? It was a refreshing way to learn about how others find the time and resources to travel, how we can all work together to make an impact and how we can try to increase the number of students seeking international experiences and perspectives.
Global Citizen Festival was a crazy fun day - the lineup of musicians, the Central Park setting and the perfect weather set it up to be an easy success. But the impact of the festival is what united all 60,000 of us out there on the Great Lawn. Tickets to this festival are free, but you have to earn them. You have to attend various events or complete a certain number of tasks - things like signign petitions and calling/emailing your local political leaders, etc. We participated in a give-back time where we wrote letters to students at a high school in the Bronx, encouraging them to study abroad and sharing our stories, in addition to sharing our testimonial about lessons learned to earn our tickets.
Throughout the event, people ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Emmanuel Macron made pledges to education, poverty, natural disaster and healthcare initiatives around the world. In the end, there were 1.6 million actions taken and $3.2 billion committed, affecting the lives of 221 million people. You can learn more about the specifics here. Also, I danced to Stevie Wonder in Central Park with one of my best friends. So… it was a pretty wonderful weekend all around. I can't thank Alison and the team at College Tourist for letting me and my roommate, Jada, do some social media takeovers and join in all the festivities. We got to share our #StudyAbroadBecause with a bigger group of people than I'd ever thought possible.
*steps off of soapbox* As the weekend comes to a close and I jump back into my normal routine tomorrow, I hope to actively avoid the trap of “me.” Because in the end, when it comes to “with liberty and justice for all,” we’re all in this together.