I´ve always been very curious and fascinated about the new, the unknown. When I was a kid, since I didn´t have many opportunities to travel, I used to read as many books as I could, in a way to “take me somewhere” new. For so long I dreamed of the day I would travel to a different country, to touch the unknown and make of it, my closest friend.
In Brazil, it is common to throw a big party to celebrate your 15th birthday. Not for me, though. Rather, I spent over a year convincing my parents to let me travel and live abroad. And so I did.
Two weeks before turning 15, I traveled to Montreal – Canada -, to study English (No! No one told me that their first language is actually French. And no! Je ne parle pas francais, at least, not at that time. In fact, I could barely speak English).
Still, even with all the challenges that living abroad for the first time – and not being able to communicate 100% in another language – can bring you, that was the best birthday gift and experience a 15 years old person (no matter your gender) could have. That first trip opened a door to a whole new world that no book could have ever shown me.
Travelling and discovering the new became one of my greatest passion in life, and from that year on, I´m always on a constant search for new trips opportunities, whether is for living (studying and/or working), or just for visiting. These experiences have become my way of knowing not only the world but most importantly, myself: my beliefs and certainties, my way of seeing and living life.
12 years have passed since my first international trip and the opportunity to actually live abroad. Until now, it has been more than 15 countries and 5 continents. Today I live in Washington D.C. (United States). I am an Atlas Corps Fellow, serving at StartUp Cup, where I work with global entrepreneurship as a way to bring prosperity to the world.
Being part of this international environment made me think what it means to be a Global Citizen, and made me realize that at the end of the day, it is more than the number of stamps you keep on your passport or the pictures you take at important landmarks and share with your friends on facebook.
So, here are my thoughts on what I believe to be a citizen of the world.
1)To make an effort to learn how to pronounce your friends´ names in the right way:
It may sound silly, but it is more important than you think. Our name is the most important word we know since it is the first one we learn in life. Calling someone by the name and making an effort to pronounce it and spell it correctly is not only a sign of respect but also a kind gesture.
2)To acknowledge and respect our differences:
I believe we are all students and teachers of each other. We all have a lot to share and learn from our differences. When we are abroad, being ourselves and respecting our own culture, without disrespecting others cultures and beliefs, it is the best way of showing who we are, without comparing or ranking, but just for the sake of celebrating the beauty of diversity.
3)To celebrate new dates and holidays:
No matter where in the world you come from, we all like to get together and celebrate things that are meaningful to us. Travelling overseas showed me various ways of celebrating LIFE. And talking about celebrations, I find amazing how food and music can bring people together in a very joyful and respectful way.
Ps: I can´t wait to celebrate my first Thanksgiving =)
4)To learn distinct ways of living with faith:
Though I was born and raised in a Christian-Catholic family, the more I traveled to new places and cultures, the more I stopped believing in religious institutions. Instead, I began to appreciate and recognize other ways of expressing and living faith, despite the god (or how you prefer to call him/her) you believe.
I see myself more faithful than I ever was when I gave a chance to know alternative ways of being connected with something greater than me.
5)To face violence and fear in other shapes:
Well, as much fun and enriching the experience of traveling abroad can be, is not always rainbows and butterflies. Unfortunately, the world is also full of ignorance leading to intolerance, both being expressed through different shapes of violence.
Being born and raised in Brazil, I was taught not to ride a car with the windows opened, or not to talk on the phone while walking on the streets so you I don´t get robbed, or even to be careful not to be run over by car guided by a drunk driver . These were types of fear I never face in India, for example.
In Kenya, I came across, for the first time, the real fear of a terrorist attack. Not only that but as a white and lesbian woman, taking the public transportation or going to an LGBT reunion was a risk I was taking just for being who I am.
In Canada, especially Montreal – one of the safest places I´ve ever been -, I was always afraid of witnessing someone jumping in front of a train in movement .
The thing is, no matter where you are, there is always a type of fear to be faced. Whether you´re gonna let this fear control you or not, is up to you.
6)To be more conscious, empathetic, and responsible for what´s going on in the world:
As you start to travel overseas and get to know people from all over the world, you get overwhelmed by the shocking news you hear about not only from your own nation (for instance, I´ve never seen Brazil in such a delicate and frustrating scenario) but from everywhere else.
In the past weeks, I´ve been disturbed by the violence shaped in terrorist attacks in Turkey, Iraq, Brussels, Syria, Côte D´Ivoire, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Having met people from so many nations (most of these places mentioned above, for example), this news is even more painful and desolating.
At delicate times like this we are now living, having the privilege of travelling so much also means, to me, to be responsible for the people, places, and communities I´ve come across.
Choosing to take a fellowship program as the one I took last year, in Kenya, or the one I´m currently taking here in the U.S., at Atlas Corps, reminds me that there is so much more to be done, and that is why these organizations and us, the fellows, are here for.
To me, being a global citizen is about never forgetting your roots, but it is also about grounding new ones in a world you´re a fighting to be a better place.
Although very few people know, in Brazil, the highest level of violence is, actually, by car accidents.
Homossexuality is a crime in Kenya and in most African countries.
Due to the extreme cold, people in Montreal tend to get depressed and end up committing suicide at Winter time
Image 4 – Russian´s celebration of Maslenitsa (Welcoming Spring):