In Slimbach’s text, he talks about the “consumerist/entitlement” mentality many American students acquire while studying abroad. From his perspective, students learn “…little of the new cultural knowledge, language ability, and perspective change that marks a well-traveled mind” (Slimbach 35). Slimbach is not the only one with this attitude toward students abroad. I have found that popular opinion is that students abroad think they are on a semester long vacation often filled with travels and late nights on the town. From half a world away, people see pictures students post on social media showing what their latest travels were or just them having fun with friends. However, you can’t get the whole story from some pictures on Facebook. To outsiders, yes study abroad students may appear to have that entitled mentality, but they do not know the whole story.
Outsiders looking are not able to see how we, study abroad students, gain new knowledge and perspectives with every experience we have. A simple tweet or update of our Facebook albums does not share how we are learning and changing. Personally, I have experienced so much growth from my day to day activities that no one but myself can see. No one knows how I am challenged everyday with trying to learn a new language and how I strive to conquer language barriers. No one can see how I am learning and adapting to the cultural norms of my host country. No one else is me. Others only see what I put out there for the world to see.
It is difficult to say how myself and fellow student abroad students can travel to discourage this stereotype because I think it is one that is engraved in people’s minds. However, there are actions we can take to hopefully make people reconsider their opinions of study abroad students. One big aspect of being abroad that I have seen is that students just expect that everyone will speak English wherever we go, but this is not the case. We are the foreigners and we should try our best to speak the native language to the best of our abilities, or at least ask if someone speaks English and not just assume. Although I think students do not do this out of entitlement but more out of forgetfulness, it is one step we can take to show the world we aren’t a bunch of entitled college students. Also, I think keeps a blog while abroad is a great outlet to show that you have been gaining new knowledge, and looking at things from different perspectives, and so on. I know many people that have studied abroad and kept blogs and it is kind of like a behind the scenes to their abroad experience. The pictures I see them post via Facebook are beautiful and adventure filled, but their blogs tell of those 1,000 words that every picture is worth.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.