What does it mean?
I consider myself to be a global citizen.
First of all, I have traveled a lot and been to many countries. In addition to China (my home country) and Canada (where I live now), I have also visited the United States, New Zealand, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Mexico, and Korea. Traveling has expanded my horizon and increased my knowledge of the world around me.
But what really makes me a global citizen, I think, is not just the fact that I have physically been to many countries but also experienced and appreciated their cultures. I am not a big fan of “traveling just for the sake of traveling”, where you just take a bunch of pictures, upload them to Facebook and brag to all your friends how you’ve got a life. I do not believe that is what traveling is really about.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that seeing famous landmarks is important. But what’s more important is that you need to understand and learn the history and culture behind them. To do that, you need to spend time to study, research, and talk to local people because they are the ones who can tell you what travelers’ guides do not offer. Once you understand the history and culture, you can call yourself a global citizen.
When I travel, I enjoy taking time to learn from the locals. For example, I spent two months in Wroclaw, Poland making friends and learning from them. I spent about two weeks in Monterrey, Mexico teaching in a winter camp. During that time, I learned a lot about the local culture from my students.
If staying in a foreign city for a long time is not practical, I will find other ways to meet and interact with local residents. That is when social networking websites such as Couchsurfing becomes extremely useful. I spent a week in Berlin and Munich and stayed with two different hosts. They took me to the essence parts of the cities where regular travelers would never go to. But that’s where you truly learn about a city.
So, in my opinion, being a global citizen is more than just about the number of countries you have visited. It is about the number of cultures you truly learn and appreciate. I have always strived to do that. Thus, I am a global citizen.