“Studying abroad or vacation?” This was a frequent question I used to get before coming to Australia. Still on my Facebook posts my family and friends will comment things such as: “Wow! Do you get any work over there??” and “What a tough life!” American study abroad students are often viewed as these rich and snobby adolescents who only care about seeing the famous landscapes and going out partying. When we hear someone is “studying abroad”, we take that as the person is going on vacation for four months. I won’t even deny it – at first it really does feel like a vacation. Because of this, it is very easy to stereotype American study abroad students as having a consumerist and entitlement mentality. This attitude has developed towards study abroad students because of the way we behave in our host countries and because studying abroad is in fact, very touristy. On page 35 Slimbach says, “… Irwin Abrams, a leading authority of the international peace movement, lamented that the ‘typical study tour’ had become ‘no more than sightseeing with a syllabus.’” Truthfully, I think we have a right to be touristy; I do it in my own country, too. Just because study abroad students want to see all the beautiful and interesting places a country has to offer, I do not believe it’s a bad thing. Within my program, although we do go to see the major places in Australia, we also rent cars as well to see the other parts of Australia that the locals love to go to. When thinking about my friends and I, I am actually very impressed with the way we have acted here. We have asked questions about how an Australian can tell we’re American so quickly because of our appearance, or what foods that are from Aussie that they think we should try. Yes, we go out at night to different clubs, some more than others, but we really do make an effort to get to know our new home and the locals that are around us. If more people can act this way, then I think we can break free of this stereotype.
When studying abroad, you are normally going somewhere completely new to you. Students do not know much about their new “home” and can have culture shock at first. Your first thoughts for a few weeks may be about comparing everything you do or eat to back to how it is at home, and honestly it is natural. The important thing is to outgrow that and start accepting how things are in your host country. I have seen some consumerist behavior, but I must say, no one has acted entitled at all. Instead of comparing Australia to America, we compare America to Australia. We are all well aware that things here are different, but we are fully accepting of it. There are actually some things here, such as their transportation system, that we wish America would adopt back home. Traveling has opened my eyes, as I know it has for my friends as well. American’s definitely have this stereotype of entitlement, but the more we travel and look at the different ways everyone lives around the world, I believe we can change that.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2010. Print.