Many people may think that American study abroad students are simply on vacation partying it up everyday. While this may be true for some people, I don’t think it is necessarily true about myself. First, one needs to understand how this attitude came about. I know that here in Italy, many people believe in the American stereotype that we drink way too much alcohol. While an Italian would have one glass of wine with his or her meal at dinner, an American would have ten glasses of wine and then finish it off with some shots of whiskey or vodka. While discussing this strange phenomenon in American culture, I am simply pointing it out to help people understand where this attitude stems from. In his text Slimbach writes that students, “…hang out in Western-style eateries [and] party in the international dorms or local clubs…” To many people, this stereotype is a simple fact. While I would not place myself in this category, I do see and know that many people engage themselves in this type of activity. Though, to each his own.
There are some things that Slimbach wrote about that I would disagree and agree with. For one thing, he mentions that students will bring back “symbolic reminders” of places they have been such as “online photo albums.” I actually have an online photo album where every picture I take gets uploaded online and I am excited and grateful about this so that I can show my family when I return home. I mean, back in the day people would take pictures and create a physical copy album, so I don’t see the harm in this. Pictures are fun and they provide a great sense of nostalgia when looking back at them, especially when you look back at the place that you’ve grown and changed.
Earlier in this chapter, Slimbach writes about how today we are all connected through the internet. We can see tragedies across the globe to only then make a phone call, take out our credit card, and then send relief to help. That’s one of the amazing things about technology today. Yet technology can be disadvantageous in separating completely from our home life. Slimbach says that American students use internet cafes to talk to those back home, the place “we never really left.” And this is partly true considering I can video chat with my mother back home and see her face, talking and smiling. I mean, give us a break Slimbach. I think it depends on the person. Yes, I take photos and I talk to people back home every once in awhile. Yes, I attend an American consortium where I am surrounded by American students almost constantly. And yes, that makes it more challenging to immerse myself in the culture sometimes but I don’t shy away from things that scare me or things that are hard. I volunteer when I can and I always try my hand at the Italian language instead of asking to speak English first (which many Perugians actually do not speak).
I guess I felt strongly about some of the things Slimbach said, but I don’t think I align with the stereotype he described. In order to destroy this stereotype, I think students have to do the opposite of what it describes and actually do things and learn about their host culture. We are here to learn and grow, and if someone wants to do otherwise then it’s just his or her life and that person can live as he or she pleases. I believe that if we think realistically and choose to grow and learn instead of fitting that stereotype, we can really make a difference in the community even if we don’t know it while it’s happening.