In the words of Michael Jackson, “We are the world. We are the children…It’s true we’ll make a brighter day, just you and me.” We are the world; we are global citizens. Although we are college students now, we are the future. The millennials of today are the presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, doctors, and leaders of tomorrow. As such, we have a responsibility to shape this world into one we want to live in. Nevertheless, we cannot shape the world if we lack an understanding of the global complexities at play. In order to be the best global citizens we can be, we must have a broader understanding of international relations and world affairs.
One reason this is important is because we live in an increasingly globalized world where many countries are interdependent. A broader understanding of international relations and world affairs is imperative in understanding how a wave in one country can cause a ripple effect in others. One such example is the 2007 housing crisis in the United States. Although the crisis began in the United States, the financial crisis soon spread throughout the world. For instance, South Africa went into a recession and many mines were forced to shut down. A broader understanding of international relations is important because it provides us with the knowledge needed to understand the interconnectedness of the countries and nations of the world—whether political, social, or economic.
In addition to an understanding of interconnectedness, a broader understanding of foreign affairs can build empathy and compassion. We live in a diverse world where we are constantly being exposed to people who are different from us, and a lack of knowledge regarding those differences can often lead to fear. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Knowledge is the antidote of fear,” thus a broader understanding of world affairs can combat that. It can provide us with the knowledge we need to understand others and the decisions they make based on their social, political, and economic. Furthermore, it helps us to realize that we are not alone and our struggles unique. A broader understanding of international relations and world affairs can build our understanding of humanity in a time when the primary focus is frequently politics over people.
Moreover, a broader understanding of foreign affairs is important in forming perspectives and opinions. As millennials, we are constantly being bombarded with information from various sources. It’s as if everyone wants to persuade us, and the number of unbiased sources is quickly declining. It can be easy to take information as truth, especially information from politicians and the media; however, it is imperative that we gain knowledge for ourselves. A broader understanding of international relations and world affairs can help us to make informed opinions on current events. Additionally, it can provide us with voices that are often silenced by the mainstream and dominant media. Thus, it can afford us the opportunity to contextualize current events based on our own knowledge and understanding.
A broader understanding of international relations and world affairs is essential for college students, and Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon explains it best: “You have to work and think about how we can make this world a better place for all. This is what I’d really like to ask our young leaders. We will try as leaders of today to minimize the problems which we will hand over to you. But it is to you. You have to take ownership and leadership of tomorrow. For that to be possible, you have to strengthen your capacity and widen your vision as a global citizen.”
Written by Deirdre Jonese Austin, Georgetown University Class of 2019, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Culture & Politics Major, Focus in Religion & Social Justice (WACC Intern – Summer 2017)