How I Became A Citizen Of The World

"How I Became A Citizen Of The World", Jessica McLeod-Yu

Following my previous articled About how my choice of hair colour responds to my personality, I felt inspired to write another article about a different aspect of myself: How I became a Citizen of the World.

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia with English as my first language.  I have a very multicultural gene pool. My father is from China, and on my mother’s side, her father comes from an Australian, Scottish, Irish background, and her mother comes from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.  We don’t know the much of our family tree on that side. However, Trinidad has a diverse immigration history with mixes from the native people, African slaves, and the Spanish, French and British colonialists. It’s hard to really say what mix I’m made of.  Playfully, I call myself a ‘Whatever’.

When I was younger, I found it hard to fit.  I was proud of who I was and for being so unique, yet many Australians didn’t believe that I was Australian, nor could they believe that I was born here.  Australia has an incredible number of multicultural citizens, and immigrants. However, I don’t think the people were used to having a single person with so much genetic variety, and with that, I felt lost.  I was Australian, yet I didn’t fit in completely.

I remember in high school we had a small homework task to write a report on belonging.  Though it was an easy task in theory, I felt crippled.  I didn’t feel that I belonged, and I was ashamed to admit it.

When I was 14 years old, I started studying Japanese as my compulsory language class. I had always loved Anime and thought that learning the language would let me be able to watch anime without subtitles.  I loved my classes.  The Japanese language was hard to learn, yet it was so different and exotic.  Everything was completely new and so much fun to learn.  As the years went on, I became determined to visit Japan.

When I was 16, I went on my first 2-week overseas exchange trip.  It was a life changing experience for me, and the moment when I caught the incurable Travel Bug.  I can’t begin to describe the joy and wonder I felt learning about the culture of Japan, but most importantly, I found myself in the company of a group of international exchange students. For once, it was ok for me not to be categorized as a specific nationality.  Instead, we were all International and Citizens of The World.  It was outside of Australia that I felt… Australian.

From that trip, I met my first international friend. Eliza was from Canada and we kept in contact as email pen pals for the next few years, and in time, my international friendship circle would grew.

I had always had a longing that I belonged ‘somewhere else’.  I would follow the stars at night and feel home sick for a place that I’d never been.  I was determined to explore the world and find the place where I belonged. Since then, I went back and studied in Japan, France, Italy and Spain to name a few places, where I met so many wonderful people, who would become a part of my life.  It was like a became a different person when I was abroad.  My soul soars when I travel, and I feel a great power and sincerity to connect with others.  Just the idea of it makes me feel so elated to learn of new cultures and to make friends and speak to them in their own languages.

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I’ve come to understand that there is no one ‘place’ where I belong, nor one particular nation that calls to me.  Instead, my heart sings when I connect to all the places that I go.  It is within this international community that I feel comfortable and accepted to embrace and express the multiculturalism within me.  In fact, I consider all of these experiences to add to me and my identity, instead of just identifying with the genetic heritages that I was born with.  I feel that there is a level of importance and kinship that is born through my selection and assimilation from meeting people and experiencing their lives, and with that, I’ve become more.

I call myself an artist and I believe that the arts have a power to emote, question and connect with people beyond borders.  I have always had this desire to connect to the world.  I want to inspire and help people and leave the world better than when I arrived here on this planet.  This is a vocation and personality trait that I have within myself, yet I wasn’t sure what work opportunities exist that would allow me to pursue this path.

This coming year I will be going to the Australian National University in Canberra to study a Master in International Relations.  This will be a new experience for me, but I feel inspired.  My new dream is that I would like to use the skills and knowledge of my artmaking as a vehicle to communicate concepts, ideas and influence on a boarder international scale for the benefit of others.

2 thoughts on “How I Became A Citizen Of The World

  1. Hi Jessica, what a beautiful and nicely written article! I always thought of you as Australian 🙂 I’m also so glad that you have pursued your obvious gift for art! Most Australians these days have a mixed cultural background, so people like me are less common. Then again, my mum did a genetic test and found some surprises, so the only thing set in stone is that we are all human beings

    Liked by 1 person

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