This summer, I embarked on the trip to of a lifetime. I spent 3-weeks studying multicultural leadership through historical and contemporary lenses in London and Paris, experiencing firsthand the culture of both of these countries. In addition to engaging in cross-cultural learning, I participated in service-learning activities as well, during the domestic component of the course and while in London.
This international education experience was a life changing, transformative experience for me. By participating in this program, I learned what it means to be a global citizen. I also learned the importance of completing service, and modified my previous definition of the word.
Today’s world is becoming more and more globalized, and by participating in this study abroad, I now have a more concrete understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. Global citizens are aware and engaged in local and international issues and efforts. Before I studied abroad in London and Paris, I had not realized how unaware I was of global issues. I realized that having a better understanding of global issues is the key to understanding issues in my own country, due to today’s world’s interwoven nature, and I now make a better effort to keep up with international news.
I also realized the importance and impact of being involved in service, and in turn modified my definition. Before my Education Abroad, I defined service as “being willing to devote time and effort to improve the lives of others.” After this experience, I would now define service as “being willing to devote time and effort to improve the lives of others, regardless of their identities or backgrounds.” Before this course and study abroad experience, I had only served homogenous, predominately Caucasian, middle-class communities that were made up of people with backgrounds similar to my own. I now realize that serving people like myself and people different from myself are equally important and can both provide invaluable experiences to both parties involved in the service.
There were several moments during my study abroad that fueled this transformative experience. These moments include my service at the homeless shelter in London, my visit to the British League of Muslims, and the moment I realized I was in a country whose culture was completely different than my own.
When I visited and served at North London Action for the Homeless, I realized that no matter where you go or whom you serve, people are the same deep down. Each person at the shelter had their own personalities and stories, but they all shared the experience of homelessness in the Western world. Serving them reminded me to never be too quick to judge those in difference circumstances than myself.
When I visited the British League of Muslims, it was a very humbling experience to be served rather than to be the one providing service. They provided us with lunch and allowed us to have a Q and A session with them so we could ask questions to seek understanding about the Muslim faith. Their hospitality and willingness to share their faith and community with us was something I will never forget.
When I was in France, I had an “aha” moment when I was trying to speak to the teller at the Metro station and realized she could hardly speak English. I was reminded I was in a different place and that there are so many places, languages and cultures that I simply do not know. There are so many things to learn. This was the moment that made me realize that I want to continue to explore and learn about the other countries that make up our global community.
This experience is something that I will never forget. It taught me that in the future, I will strive to make sure that my public service within my extension career values and targets individuals of all identities and backgrounds. I also hope to complete more local and international service projects in the future, continuing to live as a global citizen. As a result of this Education Abroad, I have realized that there is so much to learn about our global society, yet am excited to continue my global education.