Coming together in two Live Classes on November 21 and December 12, partner schools in Sri Lanka and China, as well as South Korea and the United States exemplified the importance of global citizenship education and intercultural competence. The participating students from all four countries tackled pressing issues they observed from local and global perspectives.
Focusing on issues such as the economic crisis, human rights, natural disasters and the human-wildlife conflict, Sri Lankan students shared an invaluable viewpoint on local challenges within their country. They emphasized the need for improved economic systems, environmental protections, and change in approach to wildlife–particularly the national symbol–the elephant. Meanwhile, Chinese students took the time to share their views on matters such as the food crisis, adolescent mental health, and psychological well-being. Giving critical insight into these issues, students shared why we should all be coming together to solve these problems without delay. The two groups of students explored the impacts of these challenges within their countries, enlightening one another in unexpected ways. Truly, the similarities within challenges the students face from different locations and their shared drive to solve them for global impact prove just how interconnected we all are as global citizens.
Korean students and their American counterparts approached similar issues through a different lens, reflecting on how personal spending can impact one’s community with the potential to create a domino effect throughout the nation. Korean students discovered, through monitoring their own spending and saving habits, that their monetary habits could affect change in their communities. Being more conscious of where their money is spent, the sustainability of the items they buy, and the contributions they make to worthy causes could make a big difference. Their partners in the United States expanded on these ideas, connecting individual spending to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. From investing in sustainable energy, human rights organizations and charities such as Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Program, the students emphasized their common goals, exemplifying global citizens who understand individuals’ impact on the larger society and take action for the solution, “If we can convince more people in the U.S. to direct their spending towards helpful organizations, we can fix [our problems].”
While the issues were pressing, the cross-cultural collaboration was inspiring and full of rich, meaningful discourse, fostering a true sense of camaraderie. Towards the end of each Live Class, students also eagerly shared cultural performances, showcasing peeks into their daily lives. Chinese and Sri Lankan students shared some of their rich cultural traditions. Several Sri Lankan students performed a beautiful traditional melody and the class shared a video overviewing traditional customs. Chinese students crafted a delicately lit lantern and displayed fantastic calligraphy. During their Live Class, one Korean student played a traditional instrument, the dae-geum, while American students showed off skills in various sports such as volleyball, golf and basketball.
Though the students began with nervous excitement and shared their thoughts with caution, they soon realized that while they may be from dynamic backgrounds in culture and environment, their potential for collaboration and creating change for a better humanity is universal. Perfectly summarizing the feeling of intercultural understanding and new-found friendship, a Korean student shared, “Even though we have known each other for a short time, I believe that this meeting will be a small spark that will light our future.”
By having opportunities to understand similarities in life and acknowledge the locally specific differences that make them each an invaluable part of the global community through IVECA’s virtual exchange, the students have made strides in their intercultural competence and become stronger global citizens. Leaving the sessions with new friendships and fresh perspectives, the students certainly left a lasting impact on one another and will continue to change the world around them for the better.