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What does it mean to be a global citizen?

The world’s problems are often described as uncontrollable. It is said that our issues are a fact of life. In today’s era, however, global citizens are confident that we can collectively bring about positive change to the planet and its people. What does it mean to be a global citizen?

Exploring global citizenship

Although the concept of global citizenship is commonly used, its meaning is often unclear. According to a blog post on the United Nations Academic Impact’s website, global citizenship is the blanket term used to describe the social, political, environmental, and economic efforts of internationally-minded entities on a global level.1

Joe McCarthy notes that being a global citizen means realizing that we need to use our voices collectively to ensure lasting change in the world. He further writes that global citizens “recognize advocacy as a vital part of the mission not only to respond to humanitarian crises, but to help prevent them in a way that’s long-term and sustainable.”2 In essence, being a global citizen means being aware of and understanding the bigger picture – our world and our place in it. Global citizens play a vital role in their community and collaborate with others to ensure meaningful action across the globe. 

The role of education in global citizenship

Oxfam explains that education is crucial for global citizenship as it provides a framework for learning that extends beyond the four walls of an institution and toward the wider community. Institutions have a vital responsibility to promote global citizenship by teaching their students to be members of the global community. While global citizenship is beneficial to the larger community, it also teaches students and learners a variety of essential life skills including developing their own understanding of global events, rethinking their values and morals, stimulating healthy debate, strengthening their problem-solving skills, and most importantly, helping students to see that they have the power to act and influence the world around them.3

At EDU Africa, we believe that cultivating global citizens is one of the key ways to develop global “change agents” who use their personal transformations through study abroad programs to get inspired to enact positive change in their communities. Our learning outcomes regarding global citizenship are for students to critically analyze the interconnection of countries across the world, understand the role they can play in being a global change agent, and demonstrate agency to be activists for social, political, economic, and/or environmental justice.4

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Global Citizenship. United Nations Academic Impact [Web log post]. Available: http:// [2022, November 28].

McCarthy, J. 2022, July 6. What Exactly Does It Mean to Be a ‘Global Citizen’? Global Citizen [Web log post]. Available: [2022, November 28].

What is Global Citizenship? Oxfam [Web log post]. Available: [2022, November 28].

​​Barends, H. Transformative Learning | Global Citizenship EDU Africa [Web log post]. Available: 2022, November 28].