What real Global Citizenship means to me (As told by Buer Su)
Buer recently joined the WildChina Education team. A native of Guangzhou, she has studied in Norway and the U.S. before working in the education and culture sector. She has canoed in the cold fjords in Norway, visited industrial Danish farms and explored the castles of the Czech Republic. Buer taught middle school in the U.S., interviewed the hip hop artists of Tibet, and organized rock concerts for kids. Buer believes in the power of direct experience and hopes to help more people have life-changing experiences.
These are her reflections on Global Citizenship
Hi! I am Buer. Since coming back to China, I have been working in the education and cultural sector in Beijing. Attending the United World College in Norway then living working in the US, “Global citizenship” is a concept that is no stranger to me. When I was in school, friends and classmates discussed it. When I became an educator, I sometimes brought up the topic to my students. Since coming back home to China, some of the people I have met have described me as a global citizen.
So, what is global citizenship anyway? In fact, my understanding of “global citizenship” continues to evolve.
My notion of global citizenship prior to studying abroad came down to speaking good English. I thought of English as the pass to going beyond my home country, thus a defining feature of being a global citizen.
After spending some time in Norway, I found that language itself is not quite enough for gaining a deeper understanding of the world. In the classroom, I learned about planned economies in the USSR in Economics class, about the Great Gatsby and the Great Depression in English class, and about the power of female literacy in Geography class. My time outside of the classroom has proven to be equally educational if not more. While staying with my Danish roommate on her family’s dairy farm, I saw firsthand how a Nordic dairy farm operated. I couldn’t help but think about what the Chinese dairy industry could learn from the Danish model. While visiting my classmate in Lithuania and looking at the statues left over from the Soviet period I started to reflect upon the parallels between China and Russia in the not too distant past and in the present. Examples of encounters and conversations were plenty. It was through those experiences that I came to realize “Wow! The world is right here around me.” “The global” is not something that I can reach only if I go past my place of origin.
“The global” is concrete everyday experiences that are meaningful for ordinary people- just in other parts of the world. In this sense, global citizenship entails not only being able to communicate with those who speak a different language or with those from a different culture. It also means understanding the various contexts and systems behind the diverse phenomena in the world and further, reflecting upon one’s connections to those phenomena.
Since the pandemic hit in 2020, I have developed new insights into “global citizenship”. From the initial outbreak until now, COVID has pushed many communities to become more fragmented and self-centered. I think while mobility has been greatly affected, “being global” does not necessarily denote physical mobility but rather a mindset with which one lives everyday life. Recently, Oxford anthropology professor Xiang Biao raised the issue of the disappearance of “the nearby” since the beginning of the COVID period. “The nearby” refers to “a lived space where one encounters people with diverse backgrounds on a regular basis”, such as the market, the bus stop, or even a restaurant. Global citizenship to me now, means treating those around us with care and compassion. It means living out everyday life with gratitude and respect. At WildChina, I hope to help students go on intellectual and spiritual journeys of their own through lifechanging experiences. I believe that when our perspectives shift or opens up, the world opens itself up to you. Come, let’s journey together!
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