Even before coming to Italy my dad would joke around saying, “Are you actually going to study or am I paying for an extended vacation?” Yes, coming abroad is incredibly fun and I have visited some beautiful places; but unfortunately all this fun and traveling is sometimes the only thing that is seen by others in the pictures and videos that study abroad students post to social media. The family and friends of students abroad normally don’t get to witness the day-to-day life that we have here, they only see the “consumerist” side of going abroad. This perception that the social media accounts display could be just one reason there has been a certain attitude towards study abroad students. Another reason could be the news stories that are shared with the rest of the world of students acting ridiculously in their abroad country. Again, the images of all other students are tarnished because of a few that made poor choices while abroad. However, I can’t completely defend all study abroad students and the accusations that have been made against us. My friends and other American students are commonly the loudest when we go out at night, and the American value of 100% guest satisfaction does not transfer very well to businesses in most parts of Europe. One accusation that that we have a certain ”’whatever’ attitude toward the world, disengaged from caring too much about anything” does have some truth. Many students defend their actions or decisions with the fact that they won’t have this opportunity any other time in their lives.
To help discourage this stereotype and encourage the idea that study abroad students can exude global responsibility I think that most importantly we should try to respect our abroad country’s culture more. It is the things such as demanding a refund, not attempting to speak the language, or screaming at the top of our lungs past quiet hours in the city that make us fall into the stereotype. Once we can show the locals respect, they will be able to respect us too. Another way to discourage the stereotype is by taking part in the community, and not just the student community. Going out of our comfort zones to try restaurants, cafes or other local areas that are not typically American or tourist hot spots can help us gain more cultural knowledge and push to even speak the local language.