A Heavy Thinking Moment
I feel like there is such stigma when you come to another country. Mostly about the people. Before you go, you’re told horror stories about Americans who unwittingly got swindled by some local and didn’t have money to get back to their hotel, hostel, dorm, etc. And by others you’re old that everyone is incredibly friendly and sweet and you’re going to be loved for being an American. This overgeneralization continues when you actually make it over to the country you’re going to be visiting. The other Americans you meet tell you about their very first experiences with the natives, whether they are super nice or they just about got into a first fight in a local pub. You also get the flip side of the coin as you being chatting up the students from the country you’re staying and instantly pass judgement on their status as a person of worth. You also get their opinion of other local students as well as the Americans studying abroad. You’re told, “that group over there? They will rip out your heart if you so much as look at them. But us, we accept you silly Americans.”
So where does the opinion of others and that of your own separate? Can you separate them? As I began pondering this I realized that any opinion or thought that forms in your head will always have some influence from another person stamped on it. Because no matter if you agree with that person or think they’re completely bonkers, you have to analyze their thought first. I guess the hardest part is actually realizing this when you come to a decision on a person. No one can be completely neutral. There is always some factor which has led them to this point and I think people should remember that before ostracizing someone for what they think. Yes, I might not agree with all of the rules/norms that the university and the culture here abides by, but that’s only because I grew up with a different set. Had I started here as a fresher, the rules would have been the only thing I had experienced and thus wouldn’t have had nearly the negative reaction I experienced upon learning them.
I suppose what I’m saying is that living in another country gives you perspective. Not only by seing new things, but also by reevaluating your thoughts through the culture of another. I’m not saying that I’m embarrassed of my nationality nor am I saying that America always does the right thing. What I’m really saying (I think?) is that each culture has its own sigma which it created about itself and about others and because of that, we need to be cognizant when we form opinions.
Wow, heavy stuff right? Who’d have thought I’d leave my study abroad experience with self-awareness? Certainly not me.
On a lighter note, today is my last Friday here in Scotland and I am enjoying the bitter cold and rain you can only find here, indoors with my textbooks.