The Millennial Generation and education abroad: does an international experience impact one’s worldview and sense of citizen responsibility?
“Whether Millennials are just adjusting to the times or making a conscious effort to make a difference in world, more young people now than ever before are going abroad, learning languages, committing themselves to service projects, and experiencing other cultures. What do students learn about themselves and others through this exchange? What changes in worldview do these overseas experiences engender? Do students re-imagine their role as citizens when they return home?” Excerpted from an article in The Exchange: Journal of Public Diplomacy, these questions were the subject of a focus group with graduate students enrolled in Syracuse University’s Public Diplomacy Program. The article explores the impact of international experience on students’ worldview and presents a model of citizenship as a learning process. It delves into notions of personal responsibility mobilized by new life experiences, growing awareness of self, others, critical reflection, and evolving identity. It provides some insight into the way this subgroup of Millennials conceive of themselves and their role in the world.
“What happened to this group after its members decided to dive in and experience a new culture, once they committed to engaging with people and cultures outside of their geographic borders? First, they participated in something, whether by nature of their extroverted personalities or just because they had to. Once you dive, you better swim! Then, as a result of this participation, they learned new languages; they met and eventually grew to appreciate new people, new customs, and new cultures. They became aware of others. Due to this newfound awareness and interaction, they began to acquire new knowledge about themselves. Their identities were called into question, which required them to consciously become introspective and ask themselves, “Who am I really?” and “What is my place in the world?” They all claimed to have emerged from this process stronger, more confident, and independent. And more often than not, they emerged committed, feeling a sense of responsibility that stemmed from what they had learned and their desire to engage with the world in a meaningful way.”
Ryan O. Williams serves as Assistant Dean for Washington Programs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. From Maxwell’s academic center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Dr. Williams directs all DC-based undergraduate and graduate student programs. His teaching focuses on foreign policy decision-making and experiential learning. Dr. Williams holds a BA in German, French, and International Business from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY as well as a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) from Tufts University’s Fletcher School in Boston and an MBA from Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) School of Management in Paris. He also completed both an MA and PhD in Political Science at Syracuse University. Dr. Williams’ research focuses on cosmopolitanism, citizenship, and international education.
Modeling Global Citizenship as a Learning Process
Reviewed by Guy Golan on
“Whether Millennials are just adjusting to the times or making a conscious effort to make a difference in world, more young people now than ever before are goin“Whether Millennials are just adjusting to the times or making a conscious effort to make a difference in world, more young people now than ever before are goin