If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you…I’m from the state shaped like winter gear, Michigan.
I remember from when I was a kid even when I had not traveled that when you did…you were supposed to say you were Canadian. This is in the Bush era mind you, but the embarrassment is still something I think Americans abroad carry with them.
When all the world’s attention is on the U.S. and you’re the first American someone may have encountered you are an AMBASSADOR. It means a lot like pop culture, celebrities, wars, history and of course stereotypes. Obviously I know I’m very privileged to have been from the U.S. and had the opportunities and education that I’ve had. However, seeing your culture from a different perspective definitely makes you reexamine it.
Because I felt like the world already knew my culture I felt like it was not interesting. Like my mid-western accent was plain and boring and not understandable. Like I have to have a “I DID NOT VOTE FOR THAT GUY” sign tattooed permanently on my forehead. No one I met in France was ever impressed that I was American as we get around everywhere.
I look back to my years at my wonderful University during which I studied abroad in 2014. I study abroad in Besancon France and I had never referred to myself as an American too many times because I was in the ‘states’. It was then I began to understand what other culture thought of us from the outside. It’s not all good but it’s not all bad either.
When I came back that summer I was so depressed and I missed France so much. I felt like I would never 100% belong in the U.S. again because of these experiences I had had. However, in my readjustment there were so many things I eventually learned to love all over again. I loved my university and I got so much gratification working from study abroad and with the international students during orientation. I made new friends and wonderful roommates and moved to an area in Kalamazoo I loved. I turned 21 and could partake in Michigan beer and I just loved being a Kalamazoo resident and being a Michigander gave me a lot pride.
With everything that’s happened since I moved back to France I feel so much farther away than 4,000 km. I don’t fully belong in the U.S. or France and it’s a feeling that makes you feel so alienated and lonely. It was like watching reality TV but in fact this is real life. The Obama administration happened at a critical point in my adolescence and shaped some of my views. It made me proud to represent my country and although I’m now really confused about the views of my country I’m going to try to represent the good parts.
I’m also going to continue calling and writing my representatives and making my voice heard. Or participating in a sister march of the Women’s march on Washington! Which I hope will be a good experience and help me feel a little more connected to my country and the power that we have. There are so many emotions from election night that are resurfacing like fear and confusion. I’ve cried like too many times this week…I definitely something positive with the craziness that Friday brings. Obviously ‘the world is not ending’ but we are in for a serious predicament soon…that will effect us all.
Do whatever brings you hope and a glimmer of happiness this week. Stand up for each other. Be kind to one another. Give an American a hug! We probably need it.