Students are not expected to know everything when they go abroad, but some things are expected. Yet the negative connotation is that study abroad students don’t want anything ti to with their host community. This is the first major problem that occurs with study abroad students. Slimbach mentions that studying abroad is an enriching time because it pushes people out of their comfort zone, but it also gives them an opportunity to serve the host community by questioning the societal and governmental issues. However, the bigger problem with this idealistic goal is that “The problem is that an exclusive focus on satisfying personal needs tends to eclipse a concern for why certain realities exist, how our lives may be implicated in those realities, and what our basic obligations are. When this happens, the foreign setting easily becomes a pleasant backdrop for an individualistic episode that simply reinforces the already familiar.” These students are seen as individualistic, careless, ignorant, and obscene to the host community, especially in more conservative countries. The stereotype is that many people base these concepts on every student either based on personal interaction, or from their own biases.
One time in class, I was given the assignment to ask Catalans how they viewed Americans. The result was very negative. Most people thought of us as very lazy, entitled, individualistic, and fast paced. While as a whole this may be true, as an individual student I have met some people who are the total opposite. My new study abroad friends would suggest that some students do care about the host community. Some students in my program are volunteering at local volunteering places, that includes tutoring children, adults for English. My friends and I do talk about the culture, and while yes we want to explore the world, we are conscious of our host communities regulations, norms, and laws.The reason that people seem to think of Study Abroad students as the ‘overly entitled students’ is that the media has put in this perception of what young American adults should live up too. When I first thought about the option to volunteer or become more engrossed in the society, I thought it might be tacky because my peers would be traveling and having fun.
The pressure from American society makes students feel as if they need to explore the world and take ‘Instagramesque pictures’ to be a successful study abroad student. It is all about saying how many places you have gone, not about whose life have you touched or inspired. Personally, I have never received negative feedback about doing the cultural activities or volunteering, but I often do feel pressured by other students when they ask “Why didn’t you travel somewhere the weekend”. I feel guilty for myself for not being able to always travel every weekend like the others and show off my trips on social media. However, I know that these actions add on to the stereotypes that locals and foreigners deem of Americans. Some ways that I have used travel to cancel or disregard these stereotypes is by traveling to new local stores, shops, and enjoying Barcelona. Traveling does not have to mean constant country hoping in order to show off. Since being in Barcelona I have learned so much more about myself even though I haven’t visited all of Europe yet. I learn to pace myself more with acquiring new trips, and I am being to understand the history of Barcelona and why it works in certain ways and not in others. My advice to those who want to insist that not all students are narcissistic is too get to know one person really well, and show them the true reasons why study abroad is great because you build friendships and relationships that foster a true understanding of global cultures and diversity.
Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 559-561). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.