With regard to my time so far in Europe, I lived in Spain this past fall, and currently I am living in Scotland. Two widely different places and experiences for me, and equally different for how I felt I needed to represent the great and grand U.S. of A… In Spain I attended a very intensive small school for cross cultural study, full of only American students. Academically, we all were on the same page with what was expected of us. Outside of school, I didn’t really make any outstanding relationships because my Spanish was so so and my confidence of the same level. Essentially, the only person I had to prove anything to was myself, which is sometimes the hardest one to impress of them all. I just did the best I could each day, because that was good enough to allow me to drift off to sleep at night.
In Scotland, the circumstances have completely altered 180 degrees. I now attend a university made up of 65% international students. I have been placed into assigned group projects with students from Italy, France, Germany, and the U.K.. My professors are from Italy, and China and my academic priorities have subsequently switched. With respect for both academic institutions, the one in Spain was lightyears more difficult than the one I am presently attending. My focus is now not on proving I can do the work for myself, but proving I can do better work for the sake of how my country’s people are viewed in Europe.
I had individuals in Spain apologize to me after I mentioned to them I was from America, they laughed and mumbled under their breath to their friends like I was an unintelligent joke. I had no means of defense in those situations, firstly because my Spanish was amateurish and I couldn’t list off all of my academic achievements in their presence. I didn’t attend their university, and these common night-life goers only ever saw me out at at the discoteca all dolled up, with some tasty fruity beverage in hand (I’m not keen on whiskey). America has done a seamless job of perpetuating the idea that we as a society in it’s entirety are obnoxious, drunken, disrespectful, pompous and idiotic psychopaths. This is information I have gathered upon experiencing Europeans’ interpretations of me and the country on the cover of my passport.
I didn’t think I would surmount to having the desire to positively represent the United States after the last year of humiliating blows from the Trump administration. Also may I add, a long history of embarrassing circumstances that has developed America into the laughing stalk of the world. But in regard to my particular generation, the withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, greatly shrinking the size of two beautifully significant public national monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante (Bears Ears by nearly 900,000 acres by the way), and never mind the absolute joke of a State of the Union Address that he gave this past month. Just to name far less than a few of unequivocal world-class embarrassments that have come from America’s corner of the ring in 2017/18.
But, I was wrong. Not only do many of my friends from the North East and beyond, and colleagues I attend school with at Plymouth State share the same enraged views about our new and undeniably terrible commander-in-chief, but there are collaborations occurring. People are protesting in front of state buildings, people I worked with. People are getting themselves involved in defeating this evil, people I went to high school with. People are marching! People are writing! People are standing up! American people are coming together to unite with what we have left, each other. Seemingly familiar to revolutionary acts of the Vietnam Era, it’s funny how history really does repeat itself.
That’s not my point here, but it has reignited a light inside me that has driven out the darkness of sitting around and crabbing about the state of the American Government. I’m in Europe, surrounded by many who have the predisposed understanding that American’s are stereotypically stupid considering we elected such a bafoon. But, I have the chance to change their mind! I can show people how I am an intelligent, driven, compassionate and nonjudgemental human being, who has open ears and most importantly an open heart. So I silently take sovereignty over group projects, and produce the best work possible, surprise my classmates with what I have created without them even lifting a finger, and then sit back and watch their eyes stare in awe. Did you think you were going to get a lazy, non-contributory, no-show group partner because I mentioned I was American, and then watched you roll your eyes? News flash, some of us actually have brains in our skulls. There are many actually. I am one of them, and I am not going anywhere.
There are American students studying with me in Scotland who do in fact play upon these widely accepted ideologies of the quintessential American young adult. An entitled, constantly drinking, constantly disrespectful person with an ‘I’m better than you’ attitude, we all know them, they unfortunately exist of course. But what better example do I have, than to show the poor soul who just had a less than great encounter with one of these individuals; how knowledgeable my great American institution has made me? I am ‘repping’ the United States harder than a veteran on the Fourth of July, just without the flags and nationalistic declarations. You see, by proving my sensible, smart and overall kind self to the people of Europe and beyond, I am changing the perspective of America as a whole, one person at a time. One person at a time is good enough for me, I meet plenty of new people every day, each one of them maybe coming away with the notion, “Hey, she seemed pretty calm and collected? That’s a cool American!”
It was disappointing for me to see in Berlin, Germany of all places, so many awful, yet valid things stated about Trump. Ironically, these were written literally on the Berlin wall; something that divided two worlds in one city, costing many lives and severed relationships throughout the continent. Berlin, a city once dripping in swastika flags and hatred now turned into a beautiful artistic exhibition around each corner. It’s disheartening to know that it is illegally banned in all of Europe to even show any Nazi symbolism what so ever, yet Trump had said that there were “some very fine people on both sides” of the Neo-Nazi Charlottesville rallies in August 2017. NEWS FLASH THERE ARE NO ‘FINE’ NAZIS, ZERO. An acceptance of this human is an acceptance of the hatred and prejudice he represents.
So I would strongly urge, recommend, suggest and BEG you, to please be conscious of this if you choose to travel or study abroad like me. Please, by the grace of God, may you set a good example for America and American’s as a whole. There are so many of us lost at the bottom of vodka bottles, lost in the unintelligent political banter, lost at a cross roads with ourselves on what the hell to do with this situation. It’s okay, just don’t feed the flame that’s already fueled so strongly with whatever the hell “clean coal” is. Clean coal doesn’t exist Donny T, that’s just another bogus fact included in the long list you stated before the country on the 30th of January. Also, if you haven’t been to Berlin, that vacuous wall is destroyed and filled with liberal art telling you to shut the fuck up. Noted.
photo taken by me February 8, 2018.