Travel Log 8: “Global Responsibility” Part 2 by Samantha Prevot. Notting Hill, London, England.

In Chapter 1 of Becoming World Wise, Slimbach writes about the stereotype that has formed of an American student studying abroad: “pampered twenty-somethings who leave home with little preparation…who then carry back to campus assorted symbolic symbols of having ‘been there’…but little of the new cultural knowledge, language ability, and perspective change that marks a well-traveled mind.” I do believe that this stereotype, while it does not apply to all study abroad students, has some truth to it.

Most study abroad students are going through a program with people from their home country, and therefore spend a lot of time with them. This can be a crutch in a way, especially when meeting and befriending people in your host country may not be that easy. This leads to the attitude that study abroad students only hang out with each other. There are also places that are sometimes known for being typical hang out spots for study abroad students. For example there is a pub/club in London called O’Neill’s, which has become well known as the place for study abroad students to go, especially on a Thursday night. Study abroad students also do a lot of weekend traveling outside of their host country, sometimes just visiting a city for 24 hours. This can lead to the attitude that study abroad students only come to places like Europe to go to tourist spots and take photos that they can post to social media for their family and friends to see. So while they can say they are there, they aren’t really there.

I think any study abroad student can find themselves guilty of some of these things, and although I am trying my best to stray from that stereotype I can sometimes feel myself doing some of those things. I do spend a lot of time with the girls I live with, who are also American like me, but then again I do also try to reach out and make friends with the people I meet at school or just while out and about. And when it comes to trips, I am not spending every weekend in a new city, nor am I spending ludicrously short amounts of time in the places I plan to travel to. I just visited Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden and I was there for three full days, exploring the city and brushing up on some Swedish words. Over time, I got to know the area of the city we were staying in and the streets began looking familiar towards the end of our trip. My friends and I also got to know an Australian girl who was sharing our room in the hostel, and we now have that connection. In addition to that, I recently went to a concert by myself in London and connected with an English girl as well as a group of Spanish girls who traveled to see the show. I think branching out and showing that study abroad students want to make friends and are interested in other cultures helps break the stereotype.

Also, I know that there is always the urge to call home and that homesickness can creep up at anytime, so the comforts of fellow Americans and Facetiming home are very alluring. But we are here to break out of our comfort zones and become immersed in our home culture. So while my friends may be calling home more than once a week, I try to fight the urges and stick to a less rigid schedule. I think that in general, study abroad students could help break the stereotypes and attitudes others have towards them if they just showed a more visible effort to break away from the comforts of home and show they are less concerned with showing off their travels and more concerned with really experiencing the places they are visiting. I think students could also get more involved in things like volunteer work or clubs at their host universities in order to show that they are willing to be a part of the bigger global community instead of just being a passive presence. While I don’t think I am the perfect study abroad student, I do think I am trying my best to stray away from the stereotypes and become a bigger part of the global community.

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Travel Log 8 “Global Responsibility” Part 2 by Abby Spooner. Dunedin, New Zealand

From the moment our workshop began in Hamden I knew that my abroad experience would be vastly different from the typical abroad student simply due to the new mindset I was begin to develop towards rites of passage and cultural differences. Unlike the typical study abroad student I was already beginning to focus on the culture of my host country rather than future ‘mass-tourist like’ experiences. In chapter 1 of Becoming World Wise, Slimbach asks, “what happens if you are the kind of person, culture, or nation that doesn’t “flatten” so easily? Instead of being swift and agile you move slowly. Instead of networking electronically across boarders you live your life largely unplugged” (Slimbach, 16). This question is where I believe many study-abroad students go wrong. They may physically move to a new place but once unfamiliarity becomes too much, many revert back to their old status through social media. As a result they may be living in a new physical place but mentally remain home in their old status because they are unable to maintain an ‘unplugged’ status. This is the root of the stereotype study abroad students acquire that mentions their inability to learn a new culture.

Slimbach’s question prompted me to consider why certain individuals study abroad if not for the cultural immersion. After careful reflection on my own experiences thus far I believe that social media has much to do with it. Slimbach’s question refers to slowing down and appreciating in all aspects of a new place, creating a cultural experience that is vast and unique rather than flat. He encourages the traveler to explore in a way that respects but also dissects what a specific culture is at its core. This has been my intent throughout my experience in lectures and travel. However, I have noticed others students are unable to travel in this way and I believe that social media is to blame for this. Social media tends to get in the way simply because a ‘do it for the picture’ philosophy emerges. As a result a study abroad student may take several pictures that give the illusion of cultural immersion but in reality only scratch the surface in terms of cultural experiences.

Slimbach mentions the millennial traveler in chapter 1 by saying “many ‘new generation’ travelers are looking for something beyond the pursuit of peak experiences and the satisfaction of personal needs. More and more are venturing off the beaten path of study-abroad-as-usual…”(Slimbach, 26). Although I agree with Slimbach that many millennial’s are venturing of the beaten path, many do not share the same cultural intentions for their venture as Slimbach describes.

Students walking the beach on their way to the village in Fiji

Students walking the beach on their way to the village in Fiji

This idea is best describes by my experience in a small local village in Fiji a few weeks ago. The intent of the day was to experience the culture of an authentic Fijian village. There were about 30 of us total and we were definitely venturing off the beaten path. This village was small and difficult to get to, but the locals worked together to harvest food, care for live stalk, and educate their children. From a rite of passage and cultural immersion standpoint this was one of the best ways to learn about the culture. Walking through the small huts and structures there was a sense of appreciation for how these people live; it was simple, cooperative, and supportive. However, when we reached the school something changed- it was no longer about the culture but rather capturing a moment for a social media post. I sat back and watched as many students took out their phones and lined up to wait to take a picture with the younger children. They became the equivalent to a character at a Disney theme park. Although we were venturing of the beaten path, was there really a pure and proper intent to experience the cultural if it was only about appearing to be cultural through a picture? Has study abroad become more about the photo than the actual experience? In order to change this stereotype and manner of travel a traveler must learn when a camera is appropriate. The village experience should not have been about a photo with children. It should have been about the culture and local way of life. It is easy to get distracted by a camera, but if we are constantly looking at the world through a lens is that any better than looking at it through a computer at home? Tim Cahill said that “a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” I would add to that statement and say that a journey is best measured in friends, rather than photos.”

Its about the friends the culture and the transformation- not the photos

Its about the friends, the culture, and the transformation- not the photos on social media (Queenstown, NZ)

 

Travel Log 8: “Global Respibsibility Part 2” By: Stephen Sharo, Dunedin, NZ

The stigma associated with American students studying abroad is one which doesn’t accurately describe study abroad students as a whole. Many people may believe that students abroad chose to leave solely to party in another country, because that’s supposedly all that college students do. These same students don’t partake in local atmosphere, interact with natives, or are ignorant of the host country’s culture. Although there are these type of students out there, I believe that a large majority attempt to fully immerse themselves into the host culture.

For example, one of my friends from my program is the quintessential example of the ignorant American study abroad student. However, he also came from a very rural area in Washington and has not been exposed to many other cultures or different viewpoints. As a matter of fact he was shocked at the amount of vegetarians in our program, because he has never met prior to experience abroad. Slimbach would have claimed that he would remain ignorant and not fully immerse into the host culture.

However, my friend has fully immersed himself into the Kiwi culture. He has traveled with local Kiwi students, joined a variety of clubs and activities, and has learned more about other cultures during his time abroad than he has in his entire life. My friend Seth directly opposes Adam Weinberg’s quote, “these students (at best) simply get the American college experience in a different time zone,” (Slimbach, Kindle location 757-758). Seth is currently having experiences vastly different from his American college experience at home.

Moreover, I feel that the majority of the students in my program are experiencing new things every day. Rather than receiving the same American college experience in a different time zone, I think that the majority of students are simply receiving both a different college experience and a different cultural experience. I think that it is easily forgotten that study abroad students hold their same responsibilities for school and also hold new responsibilities in regards to their host culture and community. I feel that students can discourage these stereotypes by performing the actions of a mindful traveler such as interacting with the local culture and discussing what they’ve been learning. Moreover, I think it is more important to publicly demonstrate their new knowledges and experiences. I feel that if more students published writings and memoirs on their cultural experiences, then the stereotypes of America study abroad students could change.

 

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Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 757-758). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Travel Log 7: “Global Responsibility Part1” By: Stephen Sharo, Dunedin, NZ

class

This cartoon depicts a church labeled “Never Again Official U.N Memorial” with the word Rwanda put above the doorway. On the inside of the church there are layers of skulls lining the walls. On the other side of the cartoon, there is a jeep labeled Janjaweed speeding right through the church and heading towards a sign that says Darfur. The militia in the jeep are also shooting at people trying to run away. In order to better understand the cartoon, background information on the situation in Darfur should be better understood. The Janjaweed are a militia group located in Darfur and Chad and are responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. In 2003 the government and the Janjaweed began ethnic cleansing of non-Arabs in the area and the conflict is still continuing today. The author’s message was very clear, he is trying to show that the current situation in Darfur is exactly what has happened in Rwanda. The U.N said tragedies like this should never happen again, but they are currently allowing it to happen in Darfur and Sudan. The Janjaweed blew past the U.N condemnations of Rwanda and are continuing to murder innocent people. The amount of human rights which were violated in the cartoon were many. The people depicted in the cartoon are receiving cruel and inhuman treatment and were denied the rights to life liberty and security of person. (UN News Center). I think it takes a global effort in order to keep these rights enforced. The crises which cause the violations of these rights are too large for any one country or person to handle. For example, in the movie Shake Hands with the Devil General Roméo Dallaire attempts to change the situation in Rwanda. He was fully committed to remedying the situation and attempted to protect the rights of the people. However his small peacekeeping force was too small to make an impact. As a result, he completely blames himself, even though he did everything in his power to help. Preserving these human rights is a task that is too large for any one man or country. Other situations similar to the Rwandan genocide occurring today include the situations in Syria, Darfur, and Iraq. I think that there is a greater awareness and knowledge about these situations compared to Rwanda, but there is still little actions being taken. I think that as people we have a responsibility to help maintain the rights of these people.

 

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016

 

TL8 “Global Responsibility” Part 2, By Kari Julien Trice – Barcelona, Spain

This study abroad experience is one unforgettable moment of a lifetime. Some students choose to study abroad to immerse themselves in a new culture, to expand their minds to this world we live in, and to gain positive self-growth. These are just a few reasons why I chose to study abroad, along with my desire to learn more about the Spanish culture. However, for some students, this is not the same case. Slimbach describes some of these types of foreigners as the “Ugly American.” These are people that arrive to a host country with no interest and little effort to integrate into the community. Adam Weinberg describes it as “these students (at best) simply get the American college experience in a different time zone” (Slimbach 753). Unfortunately, this stereotype of American students studying abroad has made many people to believe that students studying abroad feel entitled and do not care to learn more about their host culture.

I think that this attitude has developed toward study abroad students because we have seen examples across social media of Americans traveling abroad to other countries and not respecting the host country’s laws and customs. For example, some students have climbed on top of historical or holy monuments and posted pictures of it on their Facebook or Instagram. When I first arrived in Spain, I was told that climbing on top of statues and holy sculptures is illegal. While I have respected my host country’s laws and regulations, I have witnessed other foreigners disregard Spain’s customs.

Although it can be difficult learning to speak Spanish, I feel that I have tried my hardest to speak with locals using their language. It is disappointing when I come across other students that have no desire to try and learn the language. I have actually heard a student comment, “Oh my gosh why don’t they speak English here?!” Although not all do, I think that some Americans have given off the impression that they do not care to embrace the culture. I feel that I have not really fallen into these stereotypical accusations of Americans that Slimbach has described. Although at times it has been difficult, I have been trying to take full advantage of this experience. I currently attend a weekly dance class at a studio in the city that is filled with locals and very few that speak English, and I have a language partner that is helping me improve my Spanish.

I think that as study abroad students we do have the power to change these stereotypes and exude global responsibility. Getting involved is one step. There are so many ways to get involved in the local community whether it is volunteering, picking up a favorite hobby, or participating in activities provided by programs. I am trying to continuously break the stereotype of the “Ugly American” by respecting Spain’s culture, and being involved with the studio.

 

Travel Log 8: “Global Responsbility,” Part II-By: Erin Foley, Paris, France

Social media resources—be it Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat—are the most successful and detrimental inventions to today’s society. As humans, we feel an innate need to belong to the “it” crowd. Many a time I have scrolled through my newsfeed to discover sites I must see in Barcelona or food I have to eat in Rome. Sightseeing and dining, although imperative to traveling abroad, are both consumerist activities. After all is said and done, am I going to remember the gift I bought at a store or perhaps the embarrassing but enriching interaction I have with a local when attempting to speak the native language?

I have found that there is a certain perspective that exists when examining the study abroad experience. Many students, American or otherwise, tend to aggregate with their own. I wonder why, then, did they choose to study abroad in the first place? The goal of study abroad, especially with this course, is to move outside of your comfort zone and learn about another culture through assimilation. Many Americans would describe having a strong sense of nationalism and believing the United States is “the greatest country” on Earth. While it is great to have national pride, it can be harmful to your host culture and your experience as a whole. In Rite of Passage Theory, this is what we call a “trickster:” a person or thing that interrupts and perpetuates the transitional phase. Although most students do not purposefully exude and impose their native ideals, they subconsciously shy away from the new culture. Slimbach states, “ American students abroad may not have stars-and-stripes patches sewn onto their backpack, or see themselves as having much in common with their “tourist” counterparts on luxury cruises and package tours. But neither are they eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks of home” (35).

For example, most French cafés and bistros offer a selection of burgers, as well as many French dishes. Instead of trying the escargot or duck confit, the American will order what they know they like, sometimes even in English, instead of venturing outside their comfort zone.

To combat the temptation of reverting to old ways, students can try different approaches. For every verbal exchange you have in your native tongue, try to match it with one in your host country’s language. Instead of pulling out your GPS for navigation, you could ask a native to show you the way. When you are eating a meal at a restaurant, ask your server what traditional meal they suggest. While out with friends, perhaps you strike up a conversation with locals of your age. All of these instances refute the stereotypes that study abroad students are reluctant to assimilate and temporarily adopt the host culture. Even after posing these suggestions, I have realized that I could improve in all these areas. Each day, the study abroad student should maximize their potential to portray global responsibility, instead of isolating themselves by clinging to remnants of their home culture.

TL8: “Global Responsibility” Danielle Tomlinson, Amsterdam Netherlands

 

In Becoming World Wise, Slimbach talks about the consumerist and the stereotypical American study abroad student. He describes this individual as a pampered twenty something with little preparation who arrives at the program site mostly clueless and rarely breaks away from the exclusive company of other foreigners that dress and act as they do. I’d be lying to myself if I said that I hadn’t come across individuals like this, or even done this myself. There have been countless of times in France, when I am missing the comforts of home and simply revert to speaking English with the other study abroad students. I’ve also observed that there is some truth to the description of a study abroad student. Many of the students in my program, I’ve found, were not exposed or even educated somewhat on the culture of our host community. Study abroad is much more than doing classes in a foreign country; moreover, its about engaging individuals and immersing yourself in a culture unlike your own. It’s easy in a study abroad programme to stick to the comforts easily found within one’s program and not challenge yourself to learn more. “American students may not have the stars and stripes sewn onto their backpack, or see themselves having the much in common with their ‘tourist’ counterparts on luxury cruises and package tours” (Slimbach)

 

Slimbach eludes to something that has become so engrained in the study abroad culture, buying souvenirs, taking a couple pictures; essentially, doing everything superficial but not adding any real meaning to the study abroad experience. Especially in a city like Paris, known for its tourism, everyone speaks English and the culture of Paris has been swayed somewhat by globalization.  I found this interesting as we discuss the various individuals you could find when going through a rite of passage, such as communitas and tricksters. But I find that in this situation that tricksters can often be mistaken for communitas, as individuals rarely venture outside their comfort zone. However, in an effort to become a global citizen and assume our global responsibility I believe that students must go beyond their comfort zone, and what ‘feels like home’ and learn about the local culture and the socioeconomic issues within their community. According to Slimbach, “educational travel, like tourism generally, is ambivalent. Under certain conditions it can enrich the cultural and socioeconomic life of host communities while providing us with us unequaled resources for reshaping our world awareness, self consciousness and style of life”

Travel Log 8 “Global Responsibility” (Part 2) Athena Rine, Seville Spain

Calle Asunción is one of the most popular streets in the area of Sevilla where I live. It is an adorable, clean paved street that is lined with shops, cafés and apartments. It’s blocked off to traffic and is filled with pedestrians at all hours of the day. (Except siesta of course.) Every afternoon when I get home from school I walk by passing mothers pushing their babies in strollers, kids rollerblading and riding bikes, young adults shopping and enjoying a beer at the bar, and older couples sitting outside having coffee. When I first arrived in January, I noticed that my presence there would turn lots of heads. I would walk in a group of 5 or 6 Americans, dress far too casually, and speak English loud enough to attract attention. Study abroad students who do things like these all throughout their stay are those who have gotten us Americans the bad reputation of “simply get[ting] the American college experience in a different time zone.” (Slimbach, 36) They are the students who are found at the international bars every weekend and make no efforts to mingle or learn from the people in their host cultures. If I were a Spaniard, I would probably judge them too. It’s really just silly to spend four months in another country and do everything as you would at home. Study abroad is more than just a quick getaway; it’s a whole new lifestyle and gateway into the global community.

As time has gone on I have made a big effort to blend and learn the ways of the locals. I walk alone often, dress in more socially acceptable clothing, speak quietly on the streets or use that time to practice my Spanish. I even wear sunglasses so people don’t see my eyes wandering as if I were lost or unsure of myself. I have made Spanish friends, talk to others, and discuss cultural differences. I take tips on where to go and what to do on the weekends, and speak Spanish at every opportunity I get. Even if my grammar isn’t perfect, I find that people are a lot friendlier if I try to speak Spanish and mess up than if I ask if they speak English right from the get go. I’m definitely not saying that I fool anyone into thinking that I’m a Spaniard, but I definitely feel more respected and less out of place as a result of the changes I have made. I think that if more study abroad students attempt to do these things; we can reverse the stereotypes and become more accepted members of the global community.

Asuncion Pic

 

Travel Log 8 “Global Responsibility-Part 2” By Jim Webb: Perugia, Italy

Studying abroad has almost become a staple for American college students.  It provides students with the opportunity to live abroad for a few months at least.  It allows them to experience a new culture and throw themselves into an unfamiliar environment that they might otherwise never experience.  In Richard Slimbach’s book Becoming World Wise he describes American students studying abroad as long term tourists.  Slimbach writes, “American students abroad may not have stars-and-stripes patches sewn onto their backpack, or see themselves as having much in common with their ‘tourist’ counterparts on luxury cruises and package tours.  But neither are they eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks of home.” (Slimbach 35).  I don’t fully disagree with him either, I’ve seen it first hand.  I think a lot of people study abroad for the experience of studying abroad.  They do all the tourist things and travel every weekend to try and get as much as they can out of the experience but they seem to just scratch the surface of many different cultures.  Students like this are forever tourists because they don’t want to adapt to fit into the culture.  They still hold onto their American ideologies and strictly compare differences to the way things are “back home”.  These students surround themselves with other study abroad English speaking students who are going through the same experience.  I think in every study abroad group the majority of the students behave like this, and I hate to admit it but I am one of them.

Study abroad students are thrown into a far away country, with a new culture, and a different language.  Our friends and family are left behind so we gravitate towards the people most similar to us, the other study abroad students.  We hang out with them on small islands that isolate us from the new culture.  All the while we are taking pictures and writing blog posts about how much more culturally attuned we have become.  Slimbach sums up my opinion the best when he says, “… [Abroad Students] who use internet cafes to send dispatches from a ‘field’ they are largely detached from to a ‘home’ that they never really left” (Slimbach 36).  I think its very difficult to fully immerse yourself in a culture especially today when we are so easily connected with the people back home.

There aren’t too many ways to escape from the hold technology has had on our generation but I think there are good ways to exude global responsibility when abroad.  Volunteering and community work are great ways to become more culturally aware and even leave a positive impact on the people abroad.  I like to think about the ripple effects these small deeds might have after I leave.  Maybe by volunteering at a local farm and just helping out I can make the food produced more affordable and indirectly help someone in need.

Travel Log 8 “Global Responsibility” Part 2 By Zelia Pantani. Nice, France

Studying abroad—the ultimate semester where responsibilities don’t exist, parties in foreign countries are nightly occurrences, country hopping is obligatory, and money seems as though it came straight out of a Monopoly board game. That is what most students like to believe when they think of four months away from their home country—or at least to an extent what I used to believe. I’d be lying if I said these thoughts weren’t the first things that came to my mind when I pictured life abroad for four months. For as long as I can remember, before I even applied to college, I knew that I wanted to spend a semester in a different country. However, at that time the logistics and practicalities weren’t all worked out, making it easier to forget about things such as school work, MONEY(!!!) and everyday living habits.  What I’m trying to say, is it is very easy to get lost and wrapped up in the glamorous aspect of studying abroad. But then we begin applying, saving up, packing and boarding our planes and individuals can either maintain that mentality or embrace the differences they are about to encounter other than just the “traveling” and nightlife.

In our culture that we live in today I feel many students share my original mentality that is it nothing but a breeze but I attribute a large part of that to the media and technology as a whole. Thinking back to twenty years ago when smart phones and laptops weren’t a thing (Oh no), maps were the only way you knew how to get to point A from point B, buying tickets from a ticket booth in order to catch that last bus to Italy and just maybe using a phone booth to call home once a month were very much so a realistic cultural adaptations. Having this structured distance from home pushed people to speak to one another, involve themselves within the culture and educate themselves instead of looking it up on google.

I recently watched a video published by the Huffington Post that quotes, “The same technology that brings us close to people far away, takes us far away from people that are actually close”. I love this quote for more than one reason, but as a whole I feel it generalizes our entire generation. Making it easier for us to use it as a crutch or a reasoning as why when we travel to places such as Paris, we don’t have a desire to entire the Louvre since we can see the Mona Lisa on google anyways—right? I’m not saying that phones and technology have been a massive help to our experiences (so I’m not lost in the city of Budapest), but in order to let cultural knowledge, linguistic differences and our view points expand we have to let them. We have to look up from our phones and let the culture take us in. Slimbach writes on page 35 of Becoming World Wise, “…but neither are they eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks of home”.  Going back to one of our very first workshops in November we highlighted as a class the importance of detachment. Without being able to detach from our technology, we hinder our cultural sense and global responsibility. A scary but very real thought, we are the future, our generation determines how the course of our lives as a society play out. If we don’t pick our heads up now from our phones to gain insight from the history and knowledge right in front of us—what are we going to miss that is integral to our futures?