How did you react to the perspectives on the United States that you encountered this week? What stood out the most to you? Why? How will that influence your thoughts or actions in the future – either here or abroad?
During a recent class, a panel composed of international students discussed their experiences in the United States and specifically at the University of Oklahoma. My familiarity with the topics they brought up varied considerably. I learned that education, particularly at the university level, is often considerably cheaper than it is in the United States. The exuberance of American patriotism is unusual compared to that of certain other countries. To one of the panelists, religious identification was surprisingly common, but so was a general ignorance of religion. In addition, several of the participants found American materialism extremely unappealing.
I was left wondering how I would respond to criticisms of the United States when I am an international student. I have been told that I represent the United States when I go abroad, but there are aspects of American culture that I consider distasteful and even morally wrong. I would not want to identify myself with these aspects or encourage the belief that all Americans share them. In fact, one of the things I do appreciate about American culture is the ability to speak my opinion, even in a dissenting voice. I am left with the need to balance the need to be respectful with an accurate expression of my own beliefs.
However, not all of the discussion was focused on the negative aspects of American culture. To all of the panelists, the friendliness of the people here stood out, even if the frequency of their smiles seemed rather strange. Furthermore, American culture gives most people the opportunity to create their own identity. These are aspects of my culture that I am glad to claim. I hope to carry them with me as I travel abroad and to find new and different ways to express them.