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K-State Today

June 13, 2019

Global Citizenship CAT Community visits with Bosnian community in Berlin

Submitted by Brendan Richardson

The 2018-19 Global Citizenship CAT Community traveled to Berlin, Germany, where students visited the Islamic Culture Center and had the opportunity to meet with refugees from Bosnia.

One of the students wrote, "Since our class is focused on global citizenship, I learned how to open my mind and look at the culture of a new place from a different perspective. I felt less like a tourist and more like someone who was there to embrace and learn the culture."

According to the students, the time in Berlin was nothing short of amazing, with a healthy mix of cultural activities, educational content, free time and a day trip to Ravensbrück concentration camp. In the mornings, students listened to lectures or took walks related to the history of Berlin and applied global citizenship theories to that history. Free time was allotted in the afternoon but many took advantage of recommended activities based on the period of history discussed in the morning.

"I loved how the program had a balance of planned events and free time," a student said. "This allowed us not only to do activities together as a group, but also to immerse ourselves in the local culture by exploring on our own."

Throughout the fall and spring semesters, the students read articles about the Bosnian War and its refugees immigrating to Germany. The articles gave students the opportunity to think critically about the idea of global citizenship.

One of the participants said, "the highlights of the program were getting to experience Germany with the knowledge that we learned about being a global citizen, and actually practicing them while there."

Meeting with the Bosnian community was a good opportunity for the students to hear what it truly meant to be a global citizen. In addition to the articles, they were instructed to think of a question to ask one of the Bosnians during our meeting.

The Islamic Culture Center acts as a community center and mosque for the Islamic community. Both groups took the time for introductions to get a better idea of where each group was coming from. After the introduction, the students and members of the community broke into different groups for casual conversation. Everyone talked about their cultures, what it is like living in Berlin or Kansas, what they are doing in Berlin now, and other topics.

The Bosnian community provided a brief tour of the community center before going up to the third floor to visit their mosque to learn more about prayer and religion. The students took off their shoes, as is accustomed before entering a mosque. One of the students wrote, "I loved getting to meet with the Bosnian students and tour their mosque."

The community members shared more information about the mosque such as the Minbar — the raised steps where the sermon is delivered, artwork on the walls, and that women and men are separated during prayer. Students learned that in Islam there are five daily prayers performed at different times of the day. The students were fortunate to get the opportunity to listen to a prayer at sunset.

Some of the students said they did not want this event to end, and they went out to dinner with some of the community members. Contact information was exchanged to remain in touch with community members afterward. In the evaluations collected at the end of the program, this activity is mentioned as a highlight of the program. Another student said, "My favorite part of the trip was meeting with local Bosnian Muslim students. We were able to sit down with them and discuss their faith, culture, and life growing up in Berlin." The students said they really benefited from meeting and hearing stories from a group that understands what being a global citizen means.

The Global Citizenship CAT Community is a unique, year-long academic experience for first-year students at Kansas State University. As a group, we practice what it means to be a global citizen and explore the ethical dimensions of intercultural experiences. Students enroll in two leadership courses in the fall semester totaling four credits then also enroll in another three-credit leadership course in the spring. Past Global Citizenship CAT Communities have traveled to Hong Kong, China and Paris, France. Sara Boro, Education Abroad, and Kaitlin Long, Leadership Studies, will be co-leading The Global Citizenship CAT Community to Puebla and Mexico City, Mexico in 2020. Students are tentatively scheduled to have an activity with students at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, the university in Mexico that Boro is collaborating with for this program. Also on the itinerary is an evening where students will be having dinner with various host families. If there are any questions about the 2020 Global Citizenship CAT Community to Puebla, please contact Boro at seboro@k-state.edu

Students participating in the Global Citizenship CAT Community will develop knowledge and skills to travel abroad and value the social power of intercultural engagement. The course readings and class discussions provide theories of what characteristics a global citizen might possess. At the end of the CAT Community, students take what they have learned and experienced abroad to contemplate what being a global citizen means to them. Reed Middleton provided her definition of global citizenship, "Global citizenship is not about having many homes, nor is it about not having a home at all. It is about wanting to learn and being bold enough to put yourself in uncomfortable situations for the sake of learning."