Program Semester and Year
One of the many things that my sharp intuition has picked up in the course of my travels abroad is the negative association between Americans and America, crazy I know. Contrary to popular belief America is perhaps not the most fondly looked upon country in the world, especially in light of our current presidential administration. However, more shocking than the unfavorable perception of America was the fact that I found myself slightly upset and defensive in the face of these comments despite my usual agreement with their content. I have never considered myself to be the most patriotic person, but after constant bombardment in some scenarios, it began to feel like a ‘you can’t pick on my little brother, only I can pick on my little brother situation’ (however largely my experiences in this subject have been more positive than negative).
One such situation happened while I was in the breakroom at work. I had just sat with someone from another company who mentioned how they had had a string of lazy American interns, I laughed it off, happy to hear some amusing anecdotes. After a bit, the conversation devolved into one about my own opinions where I was asked if I had noticed any cultural differences between America and Ireland. I replied democratically with a yes, but no, noting how the fact that America is so big makes it hard to make a complete comparison. When I fired the question back I was shocked to be met with an immediate yes which was then followed by ‘Oh I could never live in America’. This response was both honest and saddening as I had been feeling a wave of homesickness for the sprawling firs and towering mountains of Oregon (Ireland in all its beauty is covered by less than one percent of trees). But mostly, I thought about how much more the U.S. is than the politics or the troubles and how to see a country at such a face value is to miss the whole point.
This trip has taught me to challenge my biases toward other places, to abandon perceptions drawn up by the media and to try and see the full picture and the conversations that I continue to have only reinforce this notion.