Cultural Clarity: Sharing What’s Real vs. Stereotypes
America exports its culture to all corners of the globe. American fast food, movies, music, fashion, literature, and TV are often the ONLY exposure many people from other cultures have of the US, and of course, this can define their view of individual Americans, and the United States as a whole.
Two Countries, Two Homes
Your time in the US as an ESL student allowed you a more personal and particular experience of American culture. Stereotypes are generalizations, ways to rob individuals of their identity, and group them en-masse. Mexicans are lazy. French people are rude. Arabs are misogynists. Indians are poor. Americans are obese. Notice a pattern? Stereotypes aren’t usually flattering. They’re often a way to express negative feelings, and separate oneself as superior to others.
Travel and exposure to other cultures are death to stereotypes. After all, you can’t lump everyone together when you’re meeting people one on one. Maybe your American roommate turned out to be a vegan, tri-athlete? The university’s library was a gift of an Indian entrepreneur? The women’s studies professor was an Arab-American man?
The longer you stayed in the US as an ESL student, the more you came to realize that Americans are as varied in their size, opinions, views, and values as the people in your own country. Questioning the subconscious stereotypes and bias’ you may hold is part of your education, part of maturing, and becoming a more worldly person.
When you return from studying ESL in the US you have an opportunity to help dispel some of the misconceptions about your host country. You don’t have any of those old negative feelings. Not about your American host family, your roommate, your new friends, teachers, mentors, or anyone else for that matter. You’ve become a citizen of the world. You have two countries now, and two places to call home.