A new world

Chen-You Wu ’20 shares how his experience in French V has changed him.


Paras Bassuk

In his column, guest writer Chen-You Wu discusses global citizenship and its importance in our world.

Volunteering for this, volunteering for that, blah blah blah. Volunteering never really made sense to me. Why would I be wasting my time doing something that didn’t necessarily benefit me? I could be doing work that I’d be paid for, or I could be pursuing academic or extra-curricular interests. Hell, I could even be lying around at home doing nothing, which is certainly better than unpaid labor, right? At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Chen-You, how can you possibly be such a selfish a**hole?” 

Fast forward to now, and you may be surprised to know that I have actually volunteered. Things have thankfully changed for the better. Some of the most memorable experiences happened at a coat drive with some classmates, such as seeing the gratitude and relief on a woman’s face after she realized that she and her family would be able to stay warm this winter. Or watching the worry and stress disappear when another woman realized we could speak French, which made the whole process that much easier for her. Knowing that I made a significant impact on a person’s well-being was something so foreign to me, and it’s truly such a gratifying experience that I can’t wait to repeat. It only took me a mere 17 years to realize that…

It didn’t really matter what others were going through; my job was to do what I needed to do to get ahead in life.”

— Chen-You Wu '20

 I was raised in the “typical” Asian household, which meant that everything was about my future. Everything I did was so I could do well in school, get into a good college, get a good job, and thus live a good, stable life. It didn’t really matter what others were going through; my job was to do what I needed to do to get ahead in life, and honestly, spending time volunteering did not accomplish that for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my culture and upbringing, but it’s also certainly led to some serious flaws. Thankfully, I’ve been able to grow past some of these flaws and become a better person thanks to a new course the district offers: the Seal of Biliteracy.

Most students have probably heard of it before, especially if they’re enrolled in a higher level language class. However, they almost certainly have the same misconception I had—that it’s “just another language class.” But it’s so much more than that. It teaches a very important concept that is way beyond language, a concept that me and my classmates have truly come to believe everyone should not only learn about, but actively use as a guide in their lives. 

Throughout the course, we focus on the idea of global citizenship. While the notion of global citizenship is quite complex, at its core, it’s just about building and fostering a more sustainable world, not only environmentally, but also socially. Thus, a big component of this class is community service, where we are trying to create a more inclusive Iowa City for all members of our community. Through our volunteering, we develop not only our foreign language skills, but our understanding and applications of the skills and concepts it takes to be a global citizen—things that help us become competent members of society in the 21st century, such as communication, initiative, cross-cultural skills and leadership.

It’s imperative that we start building the skills to become multi-faceted members of the global community.”

— Chen-You Wu '20

The reason why the concept of global citizenship resonates so strongly with me is indeed because of my childhood. But now, with the extreme political and social climate the world is situated in, it’s easier than ever to understand the importance of such a concept. 

The ability to work across cultural and social differences is so important in today’s hyper-connected world, and with all the conflict occurring, it requires us to put aside our differences and build a better place for us now and for those in the future. It’s imperative that we start building the skills to become multi-faceted members of the global community, and to take what we learn and apply it. Even if you can’t take a Seal of Biliteracy class, at least educate yourself about global citizenship. Apply it to your life and together, we can be leaders, inspirations, and most of all, global citizens. Together, we can be the change that is much needed in this world.