The world is filled with gazillions of different perspectives, and this week my eyes were opened to many that I had not considered before. Starting with the visit from the international students, I realized that I had a somewhat narrow-minded approach to what I would gain through study abroad. Of course, I had always considered the fact that I would encounter cultural confusion, different perspectives, etc. However, listening to them speak firsthand about their experiences really opened my eyes to the reality of all the perspectives in our world. For instance, I asked the international students if there was ever a time where they felt that they “had to be an ambassador for their country” or “dismiss erroneous stereotypes.” They all immediately said “yes,” and jumped into explaining the idea that many people had immediate reactions/preconceived notions about the origins of the students. For example, a student from France said that there is a “romantic, ooooh-la-la” vibe that many associate with her country. All of the students, said that many Americans assumed certain characteristics to fit their entire nations. Obviously, this is not the case, and the students said that they felt obligated to demonstrate the opposite, that they do not fit their stereotype.
As there are many perspectives on all countries, I am sure that I will encounter people who stereotype all Americans. Upon encountering this, I hope that I am able to handle it as gracefully as the international students who spoke to us seemed to be able to do. I will encourage others to accept cultural differences, as I strive to do the same.
What stood out to me most, however, was when I realized that not all stereotypes are entirely derived from misinformation or ignorance. As I began to think about it, I realized that I have been guilty of (intrinsically) stereotyping international students that I have met. Now, obviously, I am not outward or ignorant about expressing these thoughts, but the fact that they are somehow embedded in my mind surprises/scares/shocks me. How do I remove this instantaneous judgement from my mind?? It is certainly not something that I want to continue to possess during my college career or time abroad. Acknowledging these embedded judgements are the first step to eliminating them, so here I go!