By: Sarah Schafer
I believe global citizenship is the ability and willingness to observe, live in, and respect other cultures. After traveling abroad various times, and employing a critical eye when evaluating international service, I more fully understand what it means to be a global citizen. Understanding this concept is essential to success in public health and community development, and I appreciate that the May Term Thailand trip has allowed me to continue developing essential skills for being a global citizen.
One essential skill of a global citizen is patience, which is sometimes tested when traveling in large groups. Traveling in a large group was difficult for me to cope with at first, as little signs of respect are lost in big groups: we block traffic, speak loudly, travel like a stampede, and cut others off. Beginning to know members of my group helped me not to generalize, which in turn gave me more patience. Patience is what ties this principle back into global citizenship, as I feel it is a key aspect to becoming an effective and pleasant global citizen. Patience is a skill that I sometimes lack, but that is extremely useful in everyday life. Whether it is group work in school, keeping Saleh’s attention while reading at the Hser Ner Moo Center, reigning in my soccer team, or building a gym in Mexico, patience is something that will make working internationally easier and less stressful.
I view myself as a fairly flexible person. Despite this, every time I have traveled my abilities to be flexible have been pushed to their limits. This may be a hint of my Western mentality, but I would like to think that this mentality only escapes sometimes. I began working on being flexible the first time I traveled to Thailand, and we created a lesson plan on the fly. This time around, the group had to be flexible about certain plans, as the effects of the military coup were still unknown. Although this turned out to be a non-issue, the group had to demonstrate flexibility in planning and timing, and I think we did a great job.
A basic understanding of the Thai culture was imperative to the success of our trip, as well as my work at the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center. I have watched as families smile as our center director, Raunde, attempts to greet every family in their native tongue, and throws out any words she may know. They appreciate her efforts, even though she is likely to make mistakes. What matters is the effort she is putting forth in appreciating another culture. Traveling to Thailand has taught me the basics of Thai culture, and I will be able to share this knowledge with some of the kids I assist. As a global citizen, one must adapt to different cultures and respect local customs. Our trip to Thailand taught us the basics of Thai life, something that will serve me well in the future.
Our travels in Thailand enforced my perception of a global citizen, and helped all of us on the trip further develop into global citizens. I believe that global citizenship is necessary to a happy, healthy, and fair world. I thank Westminster for the opportunity to expand my abilities in global citizenship.
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