Story and photo by Zoe Murphy
I’ve lived in six countries, across four continents, in the last twenty one years. Growing up cross-culturally has taught me lessons no classroom or textbook ever could. I see people as a collection of their experiences, rather than pigeonholing them based on their ethnicity, assumed cultural norms or traditions. This perspective comes naturally for those, like me, who were raised as what some call global nomads. Yet, anyone can look through the same lens and see the world’s bonds more clearly, instead of its divisions. All it takes is a willingness to look beyond borders, which can be physical ones of geography or self-imposed ones of suspicions and ignorance. The rewards are vast, and the need has never been more acute. As nations, religions, political factions and others seclude themselves, so do minds. The world that I know — global, complex, and ever-evolving — shrinks that much more.
My unique upbringing has contributed majorly toward my ability to see the world through a global perspective. The phrase “global citizen” gets tossed around frequently, however, it has a specific and special meaning to me. Nothing is stronger fractured and disjoined, and our great patchwork of races, languages and cultures is no exception. I hope to inspire a small and easy remedy: step out of your comfort zone and take the opportunity to tweak your mindset. Simply look at cultures, mentalities and the people that encompass them and instead of treating them as “the other,” consider them as part of a common thread that goes from you, to them, to someone else, and so on. This inevitable cycle is what creates a need for us all to be global citizens.
By no means am I an expert. There are countless places and cultures in the world I have yet to experience. However, my unique journey has given me first-hand experiences with a wide range of people and lifestyles. Beginning with the idea of home itself, I only lived in the states for eighteen months during middle school before attending Northeastern University. Despite this, I always saw America as where I was from. I was raised in an American household by expat parents. We made yearly visits to the US, and this helped form my childhood identity. In my mind, I was an American living overseas. However, this sense of identity often swayed, depending on the country I was living in — first Italy, then Greece and finally the United Arab Emirates. This often-turbulent sense of self ended up being a blessing. I am a true compilation of all the things I have experienced and learned through the people, places and perspectives I’ve encountered. In other words, I wholeheartedly consider myself a citizen of the world.
Now, as a senior at Northeastern University, ready to embark on my next adventure, I can look back at my last four years proud of the strides I’ve made to continue to experience the world. My travels have continued in less committed ways, from spending my first semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland as part of NU.in, traveling to South America on a Dialogue of Civilizations program and participating in an Alternative Spring Break Program with Startup Island in Costa Rica. No matter the degree of entering into a new environment, there will be obstacles, but the benefits will without a doubt outnumber the hurdles.
Being able to adapt is a useful skill I have developed throughout my life. Of course, it comes with challenges. That alone may discourage people from stepping out of their familiar bubble, but I encourage people to take the leap. The benefits are endless and will follow you forever. It doesn’t necessary mean picking up and moving to another country. Simply traveling to another culture, or relating to a group of people outside your own, will without a doubt expand your mindset, help you grow and fight back against the “us vs. them” mentality that is gaining prevalence. The longer a group remains “the other,” the harder it is to reconcile. There is more that unites than separates us. Through small snippets of my personal journey, I hope I can resonate with those like myself, who see the beauty and endless benefits of having a global mindset, and encourage those who may not think alike to break out of their bubble and see the virtue of living in an inclusive world.