Brown University conducted a survey titled “Diversity Issues in Study Abroad.” For my Becoming Globally Engaged class, it was one of our readings. It is over numerous students’ perspectives on different countries and cultures and what challenges they encountered. It was both shocking and eye-opening because I had never thought about or was aware of the challenges students face when studying abroad, specifically with their identity.
One of the key themes the surveyed students talked about and stood out to me was them being the minority for once. In the United States, they had never felt that way. They were just white men or women, no more and no less. For me, I kind of related to this factor. Being biracial but looking more white, many people I run into don’t realize I am also African American unless I wear my hair out in a natural state. Normally, I just keep Dutch braids, so many just assume I am just some white girl who tans very well. With this perception of me being prevalent in my everyday life, I have never truly felt like a minority unless I am around someone who knows I am in fact biracial.
Another key theme that many people discussed was struggling with their identity as an American. In several other countries, American people are viewed as wealthy and self-centered. In some of the people’s reflections on their time abroad, they specifically noted that there were people who would come up to them asking for money, for they assumed all Americans were just rolling in the dough. This view of Americans, though, is simply a stereotype. Not every person from the United States as a lot of money to their name. Many in fact are in debt because they like to look like they have tons of money. My family alone is right in the middle class; we make too much money to get help from the government to pay for college, yet we can’t even afford one semester at OU without taking out loans, let alone eight semesters. Compared to certain countries, the United States people may be “wealthier” because they have certain freedoms or they don’t have to worry about having clean, running water. That has never been something I have had to worry about, but in the grand scheme, Americans aren’t all wealthier than the rest of the world.