I have recently noticed just how easy it is to spot American tourists. When I fist got to Australia, I didn’t notice how group and obnoxious my group was because I was only associating myself with the other Americans. But now that I have started to branch out and hang out with more local Australians, I see why Americans are so easy to identify. I noticed the other day while I was on the bus that my American group of friends (sadly still including myself) were the only ones on the bus talking. Not only that, but we were talking very loudly. Once I realized how load we were being I was taken back. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed for my friends and I. I instantly understood why a lot of people think that all Americans are loud, obnoxious ignorant people.
This assumption that all Americans are loud an obnoxious is by no means fair, but I understand why people have this stigma against us. Every time we go out I am now aware of how loud we are and why people give us the dirty looks. Sometimes people will hear my accent and I will see on their faces that they are instantly annoyed that I am from America. I can see the assumptions and stereotypes forming and already know that they instantly don’t like me because I am from America. Once I actually talk to them this changes, but sometimes the initial conversation is hard because they are assuming that I am a typical ignorant American tourist. Most people here assume that we are just here to party and drink without really learning about the Australian culture. I understand why they assume this, given that a good majority of study abroad students go about the experience this way, but it is still upsetting to know that people are judging you even if you truly are trying to get something more than partying out of the experience.
Since I have become aware of the stereo types I have been trying to further myself from the typical study abroad student. While I still spend a lot of time with my American friends, I am making it a point to spend more time with my Australian friends so that I can really learn more about their culture. In our reading from Becoming World Wise, Slimbach writes that most study abroad students lack “cultural knowledge, language ability, and perspective change that marks a well-traveled mind” (Slimbach 35). I really do agree with this because I already notice how many study abroad students get caught up in just going out and partying and hanging out with other Americans rather than trying to understand the new culture we are immersed in.
I have been trying to combat the typical American study abroad experience by always trying new things even if it makes me uncomfortable. I have found that there is a certain beauty in trying new things that make you uncountable, such as going to an all Australian gym and becoming the only American trainer there. At first it was weird but now the people at that gym are like my Australian family. It is nice to know that I have made lasting friendships here and that I won’t return home without new friends from this beautiful new country. My picture this week is of everyone at my gym. I really am grateful for meeting these people and I am so lucky to have them there to help me escape the typical study abroad experience trap.