Slimbach’s quote perfectly describes the journey I have experienced this semester. As I look back on my journey abroad it is not the places that stand out, but rather my personal journey. I think when most study abroad students, including myself, prepare for their travels they expect some of the cultural differences and prepare for many of the changes in their surroundings. However, we are often not prepared for the change in ourselves. People can tell you how travel affects you until your ears bleed but until you fully experience it for yourself, you won’t understand the magnitude.
The amount that one grows when abroad can be hard to measure and often hard to see. Since it is a change in yourself, it often goes unnoticed. However, when you step back and look at your journey as a whole you get a much better idea of just how far you have come.
One interesting way to mark progress is to see how your ideas of a global citizen and how your actions as a global citizen have changed. When I began the semester I didn’t know what it meant to be a global citizen. I remember thinking to myself ‘Well we are all on this planet and we are all citizens so wouldn’t that make all of us global citizens?” That logic could not have been further from the truth. Using my initial logic I did not acknowledge the time, effort, and desire that needs to be dedicated to becoming a global citizen. Being a global citizen is a responsibility. It requires you to consistently put effort into relating to your surroundings and the world far beyond them. It involves significant levels of respect and tolerance. It involves recognizing and standing up for injustice. Global citizenship is not a right for everyone. It is a learned practice that develops through deep and reflective cultural immersion.
As I prepare to leave Switzerland, I am far more of a global citizen than the day I arrived. I have developed a global perspective and feel the responsibility of respect, tolerance, and justice that come with this mindset.
It is hard to imagine that my four months here have come to an end. It will be incredibly difficult to leave. There are so many things about Switzerland itself that I will truly miss. It will also be challenging to leave all the people I met this semester knowing that we are all heading in different directions. I have developed strong emotional ties to this place and it is hard to wonder when or whether I will be able to return. However, I am so thankful for this opportunity. As the end draws near it is gives me the time to think ahead to how these changes will shape my life. We all have to return home, often to an environment that feels like little has changed. I am lucky enough to have to opportunity to continue my journey abroad. As I adventure to New Zealand I will have a completely different, but hopefully equally as rewarding experience. Having gone through this class and learning about the global community and communitas and knowing the importance of the reflection process I feel more equipped to take on this second semester abroad.