Studying abroad has broadened my horizons to experiences I never possibly imagined. With these experiences, I have began to reconsider stereotypes. Like Adel said, “Living abroad [has] taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge.” Before going abroad, I would have never looked at stereotypes in this way. However, throughout my everyday encounters i see just how the oversimplification of such complex matters provides a weird sense of comfort.
Before coming to Florence, I was told that Italians do not like Americans and that they would not speak English to you simply because you are from the United States. I was also told that they rarely wear deodorant, and also pictured Italians dressing very conservatively. Therefore, as ridiculous as it sounds, coming here I envisioned Italians as moderately dressed, smelly, American-hating people. Thinking back to that I laugh because that is far from the truth. Most of Italians that I have come into contact with are very nice and intrigued by the fact that I am spending four months in Florence as a college student from the United States and want to hear all about it. Also, I have not met anyone who will not speak to me just because I am American. Of course, I try to speak Italian whenever possible and locals seem to appreciate that. However there are some people who do not like the fact that I am a foreigner, but that will happen everywhere you go. However, although I have discovered that most Italians do not actually dislike Americans just because they are American, I have learned they have different feelings towards students abroad.
When I first arrived in Florence, I did not know how the locals felt about study abroad students. Not to my surprise, I quickly learned that the people of Florence held many stereotypes toward us. One stereotype that people here have towards us is that we are all just entitled students who constantly party. This stereotype infuriated me, but sadly I could not say that I was surprised. Unfortunately some students see studying abroad as that semester long vacation and take advantage of it. Students will go out any day of the week until late hours of the night and are not respectful of their surroundings. I have heard many stories of students getting buckets of water dumped on them because they were being obnoxiously loud in the middle of the night. Those are the kinds of situations that make locals generalize all study abroad students as disrespectful, party animals. It does not help that movies, such as Spring Breakers or Project X, feed into that stereotype that portrays American college students as wild, party animals. Therefore, I can see why Italians have this vision of American students, but it does not apply to everyone. Personally, I try to be conscious of my surroundings and try not to fit the profile of the typical study abroad student. It is difficult to escape this label, but hopefully local residents see that not all study abroad students are the same and that we should not be generalized, just like i should not generalize all people from my host country.
I chose this picture because this spot in the city represents so much. Mainly, when I look at this picture I see a beautiful city filled with so many different kinds of people. I see the stereotypes I have seen, discovered, and conquered in this city. I also feel an odd sense of comfort that the stereotypes I have learned since being abroad have giving me. To most, this picture is just a pretty view of Florence, but to me it is all that I have learned and all that has yet to come