A Citizen within the Global Community
By Travis Feldler, senior majoring in government
and politics at St. John’s University
Being an undergraduate student who is enrolled full
time and works part time in New York City is far from
easy. In fact, it is downright challenging. When I heard
about the Discover the World (DTW) program from a classmate,
I was intrigued—but I was reluctant to pursue
the opportunity because my schedule provided little
relief. I assumed that studying abroad would disrupt
my academic advancement and be too expensive for me.
Then a professor cancelled class unexpectedly and I
had no idea what to do with the hour and thirty minutes.
Suddenly it dawned on me: the study abroad office! Stopping
in to speak with an advisor, I found that the program
would allow me to study in three different countries
while earning fifteen credits that would count toward
my major. Best of all, DTW provided grants to each student
who earned acceptance, alleviating financial stressors
and allowing me to open my mind to the experience.
When I left the study abroad office, I felt a moment
of promise, a glimpse of hope that revealed academic
and personal rewards. As I walked to catch my bus and
considered life outside of my mechanical routine, my
steps moved to the rhythms of inspiration.
My enthusiasm was not misplaced. Discover the World’s
multifaceted approach to the study abroad experience
enhances the chance for global exchange, encouraging
interaction with a diverse range of European people,
languages, and cultures. As a participant, I learned
to respect both the European Union’s pursuit of
economic and governmental unity and the particular customs
of its members. With its crosscultural framework, DTW
prepared me to understand modern global interconnectedness.
DTW also places students in contact with poverty on
an international scale. Participants served in soup
kitchens in Rome and Paris and orphanages in Spain,
where they saw the universality of poverty and its effects
on the human condition. As a participant, I realized
that one doesn’t need to speak another’s
language to help—extending a hand transcends verbal
communication. When a man to whom you are giving food
laughs at the resemblance between you and his son, you
see that a father is a father, a child is a child, and
the disadvantaged are the disadvantaged. You realize
that poverty is not localized but exists throughout
the global community.
When I returned to the United States, I started an
internship in Washington, D.C., and immersed myself
in the constant buzz of U.S. politics. I soon found
that decisions made in Washington served one particular
set of interests. Nevertheless, I realized that self-interest
was not specific to America, but existed in the countries
where I had studied as well. When I disagreed with international
policy decisions, I questioned my loyalty, uncertain
that I was truly devoted to my country. Then I remembered
a passage I had read while in Europe: “En renonçant
a mes attachements a une tache simple, je les ai prolonger
a la terre entière, et alors, que je cessais
d’être un citoyen suis devenus vraiment
Rousseau’s words sparked a flood of flashbacks.
I recounted how I had “renounced all of my attachments
to one narrow spot” and developed a perspective
that isn’t unilateral in thought, but globally
sound. Just as I had many months ago, I walked to catch
my bus to go home, realizing that my hour and a half
in the study abroad office had been the precursor to
my discovery of my place within the world.
The DTW program has been the highlight of my undergraduate
career. As I approach graduation, I feel confident about
entering the real world because my new perspective has
changed my place in it. To paraphrase Rousseau, I am
no longer a citizen of one country alone, but a true
citizen within the global community.