Global Citizenship: What Does it Really Mean?

Hello! My name is Margaret Roach, and this semester I will be blogging about my study abroad experience in South Africa, where I will be studying Health, Culture, and Development with IES Cape Town for 5 months.

With just about a week before I leave to spend the semester in Cape Town, South Africa, it’s starting to feel a bit more “real” than it has for the past 4 months since I decided to go.

During my program, I will be living in Cape Town, SA. While I’m there, I will also visit Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique.

As I’ve been preparing for my adventure, I’ve been doing what I do best: reading. In the past few weeks, I’ve read books written by South African authors, including my personal favorite—Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. I’ve read the ultimate travel memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love. And currently, I’m reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which has helped me to process some thoughts about studying abroad and establish some intentions for the next 19 weeks!

Reading White Fragility at sunset while visiting my grandparents in Florida before I go abroad.

Wofford makes a point of branding it’s students Global Citizens. But how do I honestly and truly embody what it means to be a Global Citizen? Studying abroad allows me the opportunity to think about my identity in a new cultural context. Before departing for my program, part of my personal preparation has been considering my racial identity against the backdrop of the dominant social identities of my host country.

While I am a white, female American student at a primarily white institution, South Africa is nearly 80% black, with 11 (ELEVEN!!!) official languages. That begs the question: how do I respectfully conduct myself in a country that was colonized by white people? Learning to acknowledge my white privilege came long before I chose to study abroad, and it will continue long after, because, for the most part, privilege is invisible to those who have it.

During my time in South Africa, I intend to be cognizant of how my identity influences my experience, interactions, and daily life. I recognize that my privilege may make my experience different from my peers or locals. My intentions, then, for my time abroad will be to:

  • Be an ally by educating myself, working, and taking action
  • Take responsibility and apologize for when I am insensitive to others’ experiences
  • Challenge ignorance and intolerance of others insensitivity
  • Build my own understanding of world events
  • Think about my values and what’s important to me
  • Take learning into the real world

In 6 days, I’ll be flying out of the states, and then 24 hours later I’ll land on the African continent for the first time!