France has the lowest English level in all of Europe. It ranks 37 out of 70 countries tested, which illustrates a low proficiency, according to the EF English Proficiency Index 2015. This can be justified because of the serious problem existing in the English teaching methods. However, this can also be the result of the lack of experiences abroad from which most French citizens are suffering.
Not only does traveling around the world allow people to discover new cultures and new beliefs, but it also increases their intercultural awareness and, eventually, their tolerance. It also allows people to better understand the fragility and beauty of the globe we live in.
Studying or working abroad, over a longer period of time, enhances those effects. It helps individuals to enrich their autonomy, general culture and ingenuity. Accordingly, those with global experiences are more prepared to work efficiently in culturally diverse teams. This is essential, as group work has become the norm in today’s corporate world.
Emilien David, a French national from the northeastern district of Brittany, is an example of a true global citizen. He is a Research and Development team manager at the multinational construction corporation Saint-Gobain in Germany, and will be moving to Mexico soon.
In an interview with Global Young Voices, David declares that someone can consider themself to be a global citizen if they are “able to work with anybody and to succeed in making people collaborate, no matter where they come from and how challenging a situation can be.”
A true global citizen, according to David, is also someone who’s ready to adapt to changes swiftly and persistently. It’s important, he added, to “learn from every possible situation and realize that every way of thinking can bring something to the table.”
In 2012, a tennis scholarship offer gave me the opportunity to study abroad in the United States. I ultimately enrolled in Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Teaneck, New Jersey, which is 10km away from New York City. The reason is that, with over 87 nationalities represented, FDU has an exceptional multicultural student body. With this diverse environment and an enriching mix of cultures and ideas, I knew I would be learning a lot, and I was right.
I graduated in 2015. Studying in the U.S. was the best thing that ever happened to me. It helped me master the language of Shakespeare and gave me the international exposure I needed outside of France.
One of my professors, Dr. Kent Fairfield from the U.S. state of Illinois, studied a few months in France and has been traveling the world since. He served as vice president of the Chase Manhattan Bank for 17 years, and is currently an associate professor of management at FDU, residing in New Jersey.
Dr. Fairfield’s experiences abroad enabled him to read about people and issues from around the world “and take them in through a lens that is usually understanding and sympathetic,” as he said.
Dr. Fairfield envisions that a good global citizen is characterized by a high level of awareness and respect for different regions and cultures. “This global citizen would work for causes with others to deepen their understanding, interest, and respect across borders,” he told Global Young Voices. “Also, it implies a concern for the earth and for social justice, pluralism over parochialism, an elimination of poverty and the spread of opportunity for every person.”
In Fairfield’s classroom and for the past four years, I have experienced cultural diversity at its best. I was on a tennis team comprised of players representing eight nationalities. I’ve also experienced diversity with my roommates and with the many valued friendships I have developed with people from across the globe.
Being immersed in a multicultural environment helped further develop my openness and my ability to constantly acclimate. I am faced with cultural differences every time I participate in a group project. Being patient and listening to others with different ways of communicating, as well as different values, became second nature to me.
Additionally, studying abroad obliged me to adapt to a different school system, different administrative procedures, new ways of thinking, and other lifestyles. At the same time, I was able to maintain my culture and values without sacrificing my European identity. I believe that being curious about others by respecting their cultures can help to foster peace in the world.
I can attest that diversity has enriched my educational experience, helped to dispel some preconceptions, and developed my critical thinking. It has also helped me to improve my communication skills and empathize with people from different backgrounds. My education at FDU, whose motto is “The Leader in Global Education,” has helped me to become a good global citizen. I have learned how to be a better teammate both in the classroom and on the tennis courts.
I have never felt more balanced and well-rounded as in a multicultural environment. Accordingly, I like to consider myself as a citizen of the world instead of solely a Frenchman.
David agrees. He also said that he is passionate about exploring as much of the world as he can. “It is incredible to see how much you can learn, personally and professionally, once you manage to establish a trust-based relationship with someone from the other side of the world,” he said.
Spending time in Costa Rica or Italy and acquainting myself with their cultures came with a high level of comfort and ease. I am proud to have made close friends with people from there and from Sweden, Germany, Lebanon, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and the United States.
Universities like FDU play an important role in preparing young adults for the diverse workplace by laying the foundation for a global society. I believe that even though people need to have a certain sense of patriotism, they should start by feeling like global citizens sharing similar human experiences. Global issues have an impact on a daily basis for everyone. Environmental issues (i.e. COP21 in Paris), and the coalition against terrorism need to be addressed with a globalized view.
Aside from the necessity to speak English, the desire to learn and discover new things is appreciated by recruiters. All millennials should apply to study abroad or to have a professional experience since it will most likely give them a competitive advantage in the future. This chance is priceless and will guarantee success in a more diverse work environment.
The international curricula associated with openness are highly considered by recruiters. Getting different experiences abroad will be valued since managerial positions are more often offered to people that had an international exposure and are therefore able to meet the changing needs of today's global companies.