When we decided to study abroad, we knew that we would be completely immersed in another culture for a very long period of time. For some of us, we would need to speak a different language, for others, like me, we would not. However, no matter where you go or what language you’re speaking, there is always going to be some aspect of life that is different. No one lives exactly the same.
Slimbach states that American study abroad students don’t really get as much out of studying abroad as they should. I think that this has developed because Americans in general are very ethnocentric. I feel as though any person has feelings of ethnocentrism towards their native country because its traditions and customs are all we know and have truly experienced. Because America is such a large world power, I think Americans in particular have a tendency to think we’re better than everyone else. It seems that what Slimbach is getting at is that Americans will more likely continue living their lives normally, as an American would, rather than trying to live exactly like a person in their host culture would. I definitely think I am guilty of this. Especially since I am studying in a country that speaks the same language as I do, I think that I haven’t really gained much cultural knowledge. Besides the fact that I take fewer classes and am living in a completely different country, I don’t think I’m living my life much differently than I would be if I were at Quinnipiac this semester instead of in London.
There are definitely ways that we as study abroad students can try to break this stereotype. Personally, I believe that it is better for students to study in a country that doesn’t speak the same language. I know that isn’t always possible because a lot of students, like me, haven’t taken a foreign language class since high school (if I had studied in a country that doesn’t speak English, despite my 5 years of Spanish, I think I might have died). If we are forced to learn, I mean really learn, another language, it is more likely that we will feel like we’ve learned more about a culture. I also believe that, as long as we can respect the ideas and traditions of people in our host cultures, we can show that study abroad students exhibit global responsibility. Like I said before, no one is going to live exactly the same. Some students on this blog have said that in their host countries, people are greeted with a kiss on each cheek. While this might seem odd to Americans, since we wouldn’t dream of doing that, we can help to exude global responsibility by embracing that cultural difference and not keeping an ethnocentric mindset that makes us believe American traditions and customs are superior to that of all other countries.