In all honesty, I have had little experience being the “other” or the “outsider.” I have lived the entirety of my life in Norman, Oklahoma in a middle-class family. While I have traveled abroad several times, I have only slightly ever felt as an “outsider.” While on my summer exchange to Spain two summers ago, I was the only American visiting the town in which I was staying. For some of the people that I met there, I was the only American that they had ever personally interacted with. While I did feel like an “outsider” in this scenario, these people also strove to make me feel welcome. As I have little experience being the “outsider,” I wonder what my experience abroad will be like. Will I have a similar feeling of being an “outsider,” or will it be a different experience that is somehow worse? Although feeling excluded and like an “other” is a frightening possibility, it somehow does not concern me much. I hope that by respecting the culture of the country that I choose to visit, I will gain the comfort of not being an “other,” or at least not being treated like one.
Recently, I spoke with an upperclassman that had studied abroad the previous year. He told me that before his semester exchange, he had always wanted to live abroad at some point in his life. After his exchange, however, he had changed his mind. He said that although he felt comfortable in his exchange country, he never felt as if it were home. Specifically, he described that he would always feel like an “outsider” anywhere outside of the United States. I wonder if I will have the same sentiment after returning from my semester-long study abroad experience. This is something that I have been thinking on for the past week or so.