Saturday, May 7, 2011

Realizing You Are American

Recently we had a discussion in Internship Class about a contemporary critique a girl wrote from her time spent in Tibet. She essentially wrote that over privileged American’s are paying for an experience in an underdeveloped country for their own personal gain, and that they can never really get into the culture, and will always be treated like guests of honor because they are marked with that “American-ness” that defines them with a specific stigma. They can never really be “Global-Citizens”—only be more globally conscious.

In any case, we were talking about this, and my point of view practically drooled out of my mouth, but I forgot to write about it here—until now. My perspective on this is that, despite this girls’ clear pessimism for her study abroad program and that she also lacked insight and effort—one huge part of studying abroad is coming to terms with your nationality and your background and staring it in the face.

This may seem absurdly obvious. Because of course, everyone tends to know where they come from, and they know the history of said country and they have that mentality that yes, yes, I’m from _____. BUT, I don’t think anyone really gets behind their nationality and background. Especially if you are American in the Middle East. I say that because there IS a stigma here if you’re America. You trump everyone in terms of privilege here. People like to know you, and simultaneously like to hate you, just because you’re American. Well, if you really want to be immersed, accepted, and make friends. When they ask, “Where are you from?” you say, “America”—stick behind that, no matter what the next few comments are, and then ask them about something else.  It’s impossible to see the world without taking into account your nationality, and your background—so why hide it? If you acknowledge and accept that you are American and people will see that differently, you can move on from it and talk about much more fun things like music and food, as opposed to Obama and bin Laden.

Anyway, if I had any advice for future study abroad students it would be these two things:
1.       Know yourself, know your nationality and get behind it. Don’t deny it, don’t walk around it, don’t pretend you’re the nationality of the country you’re in because you aren’t and you won’t be. It’s the whole “beeeee yourself” from Aladdin. J
2.       Expect the unexpected and be able to constantly change your plans
3.       Bring more money than you ever think you’ll need for studying abroad.
4.       Expect to be depressed at one point, and recognize it when you are so you can get out of it.
5.       Take hold of all the chances you can—say yes more than saying no.
6.       Do and be exactly as you want to be.

I’m not saying these are right or wrong to follow, but I wish someone told me some of this stuff before I left in a more realistic setting. But who knows, I probably wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it for myself.

I have my first out of four Arabic Finals tomorrow.

Oh me oh my!

(on another note, I was roped into an Aerobics class today at the gym. Hilarious experience).


  1. This is probably one of the most insightful and helpful commentaries I have ever read.

    Thank you for your existence, Gabrielle Arens.

  2. Hey Gab! I just got caught up on your blog and I wanted to wish you well and let you know that I was thinking about you. It sounds like you have been having a blast and doing some great self study.. Enjoy your rest of your travels I hope to see you over the summer to catch up and here all about your experiences over a lager :)

    Uncle Matt