How Service Learning Turned Me Into A Global Citizen

By 2 years ago

Early 2008. I was a young freshman at Mount Holyoke College, aware that the four years in front of me would undoubtedly expand my mind, but also aware that only by leaving the confines of our South Hadley campus would I push my development as a global citizen.

What does it mean to be a global citizen?

The Global Citizens’ Initiative defines a global citizen as; “someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.”

Essentially my goal was to push my classroom experience past whiteboards and lecture halls in order to spark a long-term commitment to being an active member of the greater world. As I saw it knowledge is one thing, but understanding is quite another.

My service learning journey

I chose a service learning trip as my initial step towards global citizenship. The service element of the trip was working with an all-girls school in rural Honduras. We all designed our own classes to teach, bringing our personal passions and expertise to the table. I ran a art therapy class, friends taught sexual health workshops, others focused on connecting math to the environment.

When we weren’t teaching we let Honduras wash over us, in all of her beauty and distress. We swallowed her stories whole and internalized her realities. We learned that without this school these girls would not have had access to an education. We watched faces light up as we organized simple school-yard games. We visited families where horrific narratives of murder were woven into a complicated fabric of progress and hope.

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We read about economies and gender disparity. We experienced startling realities. We reflected objectively on what we were witnessing, we discussed what it meant and how it made us feel, and we brainstormed what it all meant moving forward.

Back in the classroom, scribbling down notes in Massachusetts, I had a new way to relate to the material in front of me. Tucked into bed at night reading textbooks I now had a context for the slew of stats and startling figures thrown my way. On my way to the coffee shop, I fantasized about what would come next.

Gandhi once wrote, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” My service learning experience in Honduras had proven to me that he was in fact, right.

GVI is a multi-award winning Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.