What if we all became global citizens?
On September 4th, 2021, I got on a one-way direct flight from Calgary to Paris and never looked back.
Along the way, what has ensued is a mix of interesting, beautiful and difficult life challenges (not to mention particularly stressful administration processes) but above all else, personal growth. Every place you live deeply changes you, leaving its imprint on your life story in ways that reveal their meaning only in retrospect. My experience moving abroad made me consider: What would the world look like if we could all be global citizens?
When you grow up calling many different communities home, your identity becomes a collection of the faces, places and institutions that make the building blocks of your everyday life.
I grew up moving across borders and geography. Originally born in Montreal, much of my childhood and adolescence was spent oscillating between the east and west coasts of Canada. In total, I’ve lived in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. Needless to say, I’m finely attuned to what it takes to resettle into a new community every few years. I’m already prepared for how moves like that change one’s sense of self. With time, these experiences gave me a varied and complex way of defining home and belonging. When you grow up calling many different communities home, your identity becomes a collection of the faces, places and institutions that make the building blocks of your everyday life. Inadvertently, having spent the majority of my life moving across provincial borders, I have learned how to be a global citizen—occupying multiple spaces at once.
Unsplash / Pete Walls
The UN defines global citizenship as, “the umbrella term for social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals with the belief that they are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks rather than single actors affecting isolated societies.” In other words, global citizenship—and its responsibilities—isn’t tied to one specific area. On March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, billions of us across the planet saw in real time how actions in one part of the globe can quickly impact life on the other side of the world. COVID-19 put on full display the fact that due to globalization, we’re all part of an intricate and complicated global environmental system.
Like many, my life has been changed forever by COVID-19. I spent the first half of the pandemic reorganizing my life and priorities. I changed bachelor’s degree programs, graduated, moved to a different continent thousands of miles away from everything I was familiar with, changed career trajectories and started my life in a major world capital.
Throughout my journey, I’ve come to realize that globality is a mindset. While living in Paris, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and share communities with people from all walks of life—speaking languages and coming from places I had never even heard of before moving abroad. Crossing borders helped widen my worldview physically and emotionally. I had many first-time encounters with visas, embassies and immigration, experiencing first-hand how borders wedge separations between families and communities. I made close bonds and forged strong friendships, sharing deep laughs and memories with people I never would have met in my previous environments. Moreover, since establishing myself in Paris, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to northern France, Vienna and Morocco, with hopes to cross more international cities off my bucket list within the next few years.
Unsplash / Nastya Dulhiier
Moving abroad has deepened my understanding of the importance of travel. Travel remains a vital part of the human experience because it enhances our ability to connect with ourselves and understand others on a deeper level. As a result, we become more empathetic creating impactful social change by advocating for issues happening beyond our physical locales.
A global consciousness is foundational to creating an imaginative future inclusive of every citizen of the planet.
Increasing our awareness of cultures different from our own makes us better equipped to tackle global issues as outlined by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to build a better world. In turn, we expand our imaginations of what’s possible to address key issues related to climate, poverty, health, gender and education. A global consciousness is foundational to creating an imaginative future inclusive of every citizen of the planet. Promoting global citizenship enables individuals to form a web that interconnects individual social problems to larger systems where we’re inspired to take responsibility and act for the benefit of all societies, not just our own.
On September 21, the world celebrates World Peace Day to encourage efforts for all of humanity to prioritize global peace. Travelling leads to a kind of storytelling that has the power to bridge differences across geography, language and culture which is what being a global citizen is all about. The path towards becoming a global citizen fosters a global mindset where home shifts beyond the confines of geography towards a place we build inside ourselves. Those values can be carried across any border.